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California eatery fired sexual harassment claimant, fined $20K

A restaurant called Fuzia in Morgan Hill, south of San Jose, has agreed to settle an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit over its wrongful termination of a dishwasher who made a sexual harassment complaint. The bistro, which according to Google has apparently been renamed the Good Fork, will pay the woman $20,000 and sign a consent decree with the EEOC requiring it to change its human resources policies and submit to monitoring for 18 months.

According to the EEOC, the woman had been working at Fuzia as a dishwasher when an incident occurred that she perceived as unlawful sexual harassment. The episode was troubling enough that she reported it to the police as well as filing a complaint with the restaurant’s owner. Three weeks later, management abruptly informed her she was fired.

Firing someone for filing a discrimination or harassment complaint or otherwise opposing perceived discrimination is a violation of the anti-retaliation provision Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but after nearly 50 years, many employers still haven’t gotten the message. In this case, the EEOC says it attempted to reach a resolution through its pre-trial conciliation process but was unable to settle the matter without filing a federal lawsuit against the restaurant.

In addition to paying the fired dishwasher $20,000 in compensation, the restaurant signed a consent decree, which is an agreed-upon settlement which becomes a court order when that settlement is approved by a judge. Under that decree, the restaurant is required to develop anti-discrimination policies, implement them, and train all managers and staff on the law in English or Spanish, as appropriate. It has also agreed to report any new discrimination, harassment or retaliation complaints to the EEOC for the next 18 months.

"It is in everyone's best interest when workers are secure in knowing that they will not be retaliated against for speaking up against unlawful employment practices," said the EEOC’s regional attorney for San Francisco.

Source: EEOC press release, “Morgan Hill Restaurant Settles EEOC Retaliation Suit,” July 22, 2013

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