Neighborhood Restaurant Partners Florida, LLC (NRP), which operates an Applebee’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill restaurant in Plant City, Florida, has agreed to pay $100,000 and furnish comprehensive injunctive relief to settle a sexual orientation and race discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, two members of the restaurant’s staff verbally harassed a black employee by subjecting him to racial and homophobic epithets on a consistent basis. In addition to making derogatory comments, one of the harassers wore Confederate flag paraphernalia while he was working at the restaurant. During the course of the harassment, the employee complained to various levels of management at the restaurant, but no actions were taken by the employer. Eventually, the employee attempted to contact NRP’s corporate offices. After this, his scheduled hours were cut and he was forced to quit.
This alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination based on race, sexual orientation and prohibits retaliation. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Neighborhood Restaurant Partners Florida, LLC, Case No. 8:21-cv-01931-VMC-JSS) in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
“No employee should have to endure homophobic and racist harassment by co-workers,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Robert E. Weisberg. “Failing to take corrective action to correct a work environment permeated with racial and homophobic slurs, and, even worse, punishing an employee for reporting harassment, will not be tolerated.”
The three-year consent decree resolving the EEOC’s lawsuit, approved by the federal court, requires NRP to pay $100,000 in monetary relief. The company will also provide specialized training on sexual orientation and race discrimination to human resources officers and managers to ensure they are aware of their obligations to prevent workplace discrimination and how to address complaints. The decree also requires NRP to appoint an internal consent decree monitor to review complaints of sexual orientation and race-based harassment and provide EEOC with reports of harassment complaints which also describe its actions taken in response to the complaint.
“At all times, not only during Pride Month, the EEOC is committed to robust enforcement of Title VII’s protections against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination,” said EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows. “This case also shows that racist slurs and paraphernalia remain a persistent problem that employers should be prepared to address in prompt and effective ways.”
Evangeline Hawthorne, the EEOC’s Tampa field office director, said, “While the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia was a huge step forward, LGBTQ+ employees still face discrimination in the workplace The EEOC is committed to taking action where an employer treats an individual differently because of his or her sexual orientation or race.”
For more information on race and color discrimination, please visit https://www.eeoc.gov/racecolor-discrimination. For more information on discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, please visit https://www.eeoc.gov/sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity-sogi-discrimination. For more information on retaliation, please visit https://www.eeoc.gov/retaliation.
Lisa Smith, SPHR, SCP
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