In June, the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against a Long Island diner that has operated for decades, alleging that female employees were subjected to sexual harassment and sex-based discrimination that created a hostile work environment.
While the outcome of the EEOC’s lawsuit remains to be seen, it illustrates the prevalence of sexual harassment in the restaurant industry. If you work in a restaurant and have been harassed on the job, it takes an experienced New York sexual harassment attorney to protect your rights.
Stardust Diners, Inc. operates in Nassau County under the name Colony Diner. According to the EEOC’s suit, the diner’s owners and other male employees created, encouraged, and tolerated a hostile work environment in which female servers and hostesses experienced harassment daily. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to settle the matter through its conciliation process.
According to the complaint, Colony Diner’s owners subjected female employees to numerous forms of harassment, including:
- Unwelcome verbal commentary
- Non-consensual touching
- Invasive questions about their personal lives
- Instructions to wear tight or revealing clothing to work
Additionally, the complaint alleges that the owners knew or should have known about harassment being committed by male employees but took no action to prevent it. In particular, the owners knew that both a busboy and a server had made unwanted sexual comments and non-consensually touched female employees on multiple occasions.
Moreover, the EEOC contends that the owners retaliated against female employees who objected to harassment by changing their shifts or assigning them to less busy sections of the restaurant, leading to a reduction in tips. The complaint also notes that the diner did not have a written anti-harassment policy. Because the harassment was tolerated by the two male owners, women were forced to put up with it or leave their employment.
The suit (EEOC v. Stardust Diners, Inc. d/b/a Colony Diner), filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, seeks back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages for the employees, as well as injunctive relief designed to prevent future harassment and discrimination by the defendant.
Why This Matters
The EEOC’s suit against Colony Diner alleges violations of federal law — Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), which prohibits sex-based employment discrimination; sexual harassment is considered an unlawful form of discrimination. It is worth noting that sexual harassment is also a violation of the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL).
Although restaurant workers in New York have powerful legal protections under state and federal law, sexual harassment is pervasive in the restaurant and hospitality sector; tipped employees are especially vulnerable to harassment by owners, managers, coworkers, and customers. Whether you are a server, a hostess, or work back-of-the-house and have been subjected to harassment in a restaurant, talk to an employment lawyer.