The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has accused a Culver’s fast-food franchisee in Cottage Grove, Minn., of subjecting employees to a hostile work environment that included harassment based on race, sex, sexual orientation, and disability.
The EEOC, an agency of the federal government, filed two lawsuits Tuesday against R & G Endeavors Inc., the franchisee doing business as Culver’s Restaurants of Cottage Grove, the EEOC announced in a press release.
Several workers endured harassment at the restaurant over the past five years, in violation of federal law, the agency charges. Managers and coworkers, for instance, insulted a gay African American employee in racist and homophobic fashion, including use of the n-word and the f-word, according to the EEOC. They also “discussed his sex life, and referred to him as the restaurant’s ‘adopted African child,’” says the EEOC release.
The agency further charges that the company subjected an employee with a disability to bullying and disability-related slurs, while paying him less than his coworkers. It goes on to allege there was sexual harassment of female employees, some as young as 14, that included unwanted sexual touching, jokes, and propositions.
“Employees reported these conditions to management, but the company failed to reasonably address the harassment or discipline those responsible,” the press release continues. “The intolerable working conditions forced one employee to quit.”
Such conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans job discrimination based on race, sex, and sexual orientation, plus the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota after first attempting to reach settlements with R & G Endeavors. The EEOC seeks compensation for the affected employees and an order requiring the company to take steps to stop and prevent future workplace harassment and pay disparities.
“These forms of discriminatory harassment in the workplace are never acceptable,” Greg Gochanour, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago District Office, said in the release. “All employees — regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation or disability — should enjoy an equal right to safety, dignity, and respect in their place of work, and the EEOC will vigorously enforce that right, through litigation if necessary.”
“Federal law requires employers to take prompt and effective action to stop harassment on the job,” added Diane Smason, acting district director of the EEOC’s Chicago District. “Employers cannot simply ignore repeated reports of harassment, allowing this abusive conduct to continue and spread.”