Rosebud Restaurants, EEOC settle class action over workplace sexual harassment charges

By Jonathan Bilyk | Oct 10, 2018

By Belinda Hankins Miller from U.S.A. (Rosebud on Rush) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Rosebud Restaurants has settled a potential class action brought by federal workplace discrimination monitors, who had accused the Italian restaurant chain of mistreating female employees, allowing them to be subjected to sexual harassment on the job.

Under the settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which was entered under an official agreement known as a consent decree, Rosebud agreed to pay two women who worked for them and had complained of sexual harassment, a total of $150,000. Rosebud also agreed to submit to EEOC monitoring of its businesses; to enact more strict policies forbidding sexual harassment and spelling out punishments for those who violate them; and to send its workers through anti-sexual harassment training.

The consent decree noted the settlement should not “be construed as an admission by any party of the claims or defenses of any other party.”

The case had landed in Chicago federal court in May 2017, as the EEOC sought to expand an action the agency had filed on behalf of complainant Tina Rosenthal to include more Rosebud employees who the agency asserted had been exposed to a pattern of sexual harassment at the restaurants in recent years.

The court action asserted Rosenthal had been fired from her position as a server at a Rosebud restaurant in November 2013 in retaliation for complaining about the harassment she allegedly faced.

According to the EEOC complaint, female workers at Rosebud’s restaurants were subjected to “unwelcome and offensive sexual comments, propositions, and/or touching by a co-worker.” The EEOC contended Rosebud should be held responsible for failing to do anything to stop the harassment.

Specifically, the EEOC claimed Rosebud violated Title VII of the federal 1964 Civil Rights Act and Title I of the 1991 Civil Rights Act, and discriminated against its female workers.

During the course of the case in federal court, the EEOC identified another female employee, Rhonda Teven, as a potential complainant in the case.

The EEOC’s 2017 action came on the heels of a private action lawsuit brought two years earlier by two other female employees who accused the Rosebud group of allowing its female workers to be subjected to “pervasive and systematic sexual harassment and discriminatory practices,” allegedly including obscene name-calling, groping, exposure to hard-core pornography in the workplace, catcalling and repeated sexual overtures and invitations from managers to engage in sex acts, among others.

That lawsuit was dismissed under a settlement in September 2016. The terms of the settlement were not publicly disclosed.

Under the publicly filed consent decree settling the EEOC’s 2017 action, Rosebud would pay Rosenthal $130,000, which would include $20,000 in back wages and $110,000 in damages.

The company would also pay Teven $20,000 under the agreement.

According to the consent decree, Rosebud also would agree to revise its employee policies to include provisions specifically forbidding sexual harassment and defining what would be considered harassing behavior; provisions forbidding retaliation against anyone who complains of sexual harassment and allowing employees to complain to any manager about sexual harassment; provisions directing any complaints of sexual harassment to go immediately to a restaurant’s general manager or human resources management; and provisions laying out discipline, up to termination, for anyone “found to have engaged in sexual harassment,” among other provisions.

Rosebud is also required to report all sexual harassment complaints to the EEOC for the next two years.

Further, the decree requires Rosebud to provide annual EEOC-approved training to all employees concerning sexual harassment and retaliation. Managers and human resources personnel are also required to attend separate in-person training sessions.

Rosebud is represented in the action by attorneys David Cascio and Jennifer Naber, of the firm of Laner Muchin, of Chicago.

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Laner Muchin Ltd. Rosebud Restaurants U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

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