- Francisco Fine Foods LLC, doing business as Mariscos Altata, has agreed to pay $220,000 and send apology letters to settle a gender and age discrimination lawsuit.
- The suit, filed by the the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleged that female employees were subjected to sexual harassment, including unwanted touching, requests for sex and more. Those who refused to comply with sexual demands suffered retaliation, according to EEOC. The suit also claimed that an employee was harassed based on her age: She was called a "worthless old lady" and co-workers took bets on her age.
- In addition to the monetary settlement, the Phoenix restaurant will establish a robust system for employees to report harassment, discrimination and retaliation; evaluate managers based on their compliance with EEOC laws; and train its managers and employees on the law. The restaurant also agreed to terminate the alleged harasser and never rehire him, and will also send apology letters to the women affected.
The terms of the Mariscos Altata settlement agreement may serve as a blueprint for employers hoping to be well-prepared for any harassment claims that may arise.
A robust reporting system is a must, and employees must know how to use it. What's more, they must be comfortable using it. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently decided that a jury should hear from an employee who failed to report harassment because of her "legitimate fear of the possible consequences of doing so." A culture of accountability can play a major role in ensuring employees will speak up about misconduct.
Similarly, manager training is a must. Experts — from employment law attorneys to the EEOC — say that front-line managers are too often the cause of discrimination claims. To address this, employers may want to ensure that managers are trained on the basics. They need to know what you want them to say when an employee comes forward with a harassment claim, a request for leave or any other concern that may trigger legal protections, experts say. Often, it's as simple as thanking the employee for raising their concern and assuring them that it will be escalated to HR. And regardless of how the manager feels about the employee or the request, it's important that they keep their emotions in check and take responsibility for shepherding the request through the formalized process.