Several franchisees of the popular IHOP restaurant chain in Nevada and New York violated federal law when they failed to prevent and correct ongoing sexual harassment and retaliation against their employees, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the restaurants subjected employees to a hostile work environment based on sex and took no corrective action when the employees complained to local management about the harassment. The restaurants also took retaliatory action against some of the employees who complained about the harassment including reducing work hours and termination. IHOP’s written sexual harassment policy, which required complaints to be made to the corporate office in writing within 72 hours of the harassing incident, did not shield them from liability where local managers were on notice of the harassment yet took no action.
The EEOC’s suit seeks back pay and compensatory and punitive damages for the workers and class members, as well as injunctive relief intended to prevent the defendants from engaging in further discrimination, harassment and retaliation. EEOC representatives said, “Employers must ensure that employees have every opportunity to report incidents of sexual harassment and take prompt corrective action when they receive complaints. Employers should carefully review their sexual harassment policies to evaluate whether they will be effective in preventing and promptly correcting sexual harassment and deterring retaliation.”