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Fla. Applebee’s Settles Race, Sexual Orientation Discrimination Suit

Applebees and EEOC chair Charlotte Burrows

EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows praised the development and pledged the Biden-Harris administration's continued support for the LGBTQ+ community.

In a settlement with the U.S. Government, Applebee's franchise owners in Florida have agreed to pay $100,000 to resolve a case involving sexual orientation discrimination.

A cook at the restaurant in Plant City, Fla., was forced to quit because of complaining about racism and homophobia at the restaurant, according to a news release issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The commission said Neighborhood Restaurant Partners Florida LLC in Tampa failed to take action after two co-workers hurled racial and homophobic slurs at Jebriel Teague.

Teague, who is Black and gay, was verbally harassed by two restaurant employees who continuously used racial and homophobic epithets, the EEOC lawsuit claimed. Teague reported the harassment to the restaurant's various levels of management, but the employer did not take any action to stop it. The harasser also regularly wore Confederate flag paraphernalia while working at the restaurant and made derogatory remarks. Instead, when he attempted to reach NRP corporate, leadership cut his scheduled hours and forced him to resign, EEOC said in a statement.

This conduct violates the prohibition on discrimination based on race and sexual orientation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to the agency. As a result, the EEOC filed a suit in Federal District Court for the Middle District of Florida after first attempting to resolve the matter through conciliation.

"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."

NRP must pay $100,000 in financial relief over a three-year period to resolve the EEOC lawsuit under the consent decree approved by the federal court. As part of its efforts to prevent workplace discrimination, the company will train managers and human resources officers on race and sexual orientation discrimination.

Furthermore, NRP must appoint a consent decree monitor to review sexual orientation and race-based harassment complaints and provide EEOC with reports detailing the company's response.

EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows praised the development and pledged that the Biden-Harris administration would continue its support for the LGBTQ+ community.

"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," Burrows said.

While the Supreme Court's decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, was an advancement, LGBTQ+ employees still face discrimination in the workplace, according to Evangeline Hawthorne, EEOC's Tampa field office director.

"The EEOC is committed to taking action where an employer treats an individual differently because of his or her sexual orientation or race," Hawthorne said.

Employers must remain vigilant against workplace extremism, Burrows warned.

"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," she said.

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