Employer Settles EEOC Suit Alleging Sexual Harassment of Employees by Customer
March 20, 2012
Under a consent decree recently approved by a federal district court in Florida, owners of a restaurant will pay $200,000 to servers who allegedly were sexually harassed by a regular customer. According to the complaint filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, restaurant management knew that the male customer, a deputy sheriff who patronized the restaurant several times a week, harassed female servers, but failed to take any action to stop him. The customer’s harassment included making comments about the servers’ bodies, showing them pornographic images on his cell phone, propositioning them, and touching them inappropriately. Despite complaints, management allegedly failed to confront the customer about his behavior.
In addition to making monetary payments to the servers, the decree requires the restaurant to bar the customer from its premises and to seek a judicial “no trespass” order against him if he fails to cooperate. It also requires the restaurant to offer yearly anti-harassment training to all employees and to report any internal complaints of harassment to EEOC for a three-year period.
This settlement serves as an important reminder to employers that they must address harassment of their employees whatever its source: other employees, vendors, or customers, even if doing so could result in a loss of business and revenue.