Thursday, September 8, 2011
Applebee’s Owners Settle EEOC Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Lawsuit for $1 Million
The owners of Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar have agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by the EEOC. According to the EEOC, Applebee’s violated federal civil rights laws at its Bismarck, North Dakota location by permitting a former store general manager to create a pattern and practice of sexual harassment and retaliation against employees.
The EEOC alleges that during the period of 2002 to 2007, Mike Cordova, the General Manager of the Bismarck location, regularly groped female employees, solicited sexual relations, and exposed himself. The EEOC also claims that he exposed employees to pornography, told sexually explicit stories and jokes and made highly personalized sexual comments designed to demean and humiliate female employees. On at least one occasion, Cordova apparently coerced an employee into giving him oral sex in exchange for a raise.
Despite repeated complaints by employees, Applebee’s allegedly failed to discipline or stop Cordova’s behavior. Former female employees of the Bismarck Applebee’s eventually filed charges of discrimination with the EEOC that led to the lawsuit, charging the company with sexual harassment and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the company will pay out $1 million in compensatory damages to 17 female former employees who experienced Cordova’s sexual harassment and retaliation during their employment. The company is also required to implement a comprehensive training program to assist its employees in identifying sexual harassment and properly investigating internal complaints.