Rafael's restaurant chain settles sexual harassment suit - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Rafael's restaurant chain settles sexual harassment suit

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(WRCB) -- The Winchester, Tennessee based Rafael's Italian Restaurant has agreed to pay $25,000 and furnish other relief to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

EEOC officials had charged the restaurant chain with violating federal law by subjecting female employees, including some teenagers, to sexual harassment in their Tullahoma location.

The EEOC alleged that as far back as 2005, male kitchen workers repeatedly subjected female employees, two of whom were teens at the time, to egregious acts of sexual harassment including crude comments, requests for sex and physical touching, including using vegetables to simulate sodomy and to hit the victims between their legs.  

Government officials claimed that despite repeated complaints from several of the women, management ignored the problem.

In response, the EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Winchester Division after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to monetary relief, the two-year consent decree settling the lawsuit enjoins Rafael's Italian Restaurant from further discriminating against female employees and requires them to provide annual training on employee rights and must maintain records of sexual harassment complaints and provide annual reports to the EEOC. 

"Allowing serial harassers to victimize female employees without facing consequences is a clear violation of federal law," said Faye A. Williams, regional attorney for the EEOC's Memphis District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arkansas, Tennessee and portions of Mississippi.  "Managers must take swift action to stop this sort of abuse when they receive complaints of sexual harassment from their employees, especially when the complaints involve teenage employees who are in the work force for the first time."  

Rafael's Italian Restaurant is one of several restaurants operated by Santos Macias across Tennessee, including local locations in Hixson, Soddy-Daisy and Jasper.

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