La Rana Hawaii, LLC, doing business as Senor Frog’s, a popular Mexican-themed restaurant and bar in Honolulu, will pay $350,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of 13 female employees who were allegedly sexually harassed or retaliated against between 2007 and 2012, the federal agency announced Thursday.
The federal agency filed suit in 2011, later amending its complaint to charge that at least 10 female staffers were sexually harassed by several male employees, including managers.
The EEOC alleged that the managers subjected employees to sexual comments, language and advances, and unwelcome physical contact. The agency further alleged that some employees were subjected to retaliation after complaining about the alleged harassment.
The EEOC also alleged that the women were also treated less favorably than men in the workplace: they were passed over for promotions, assigned less favorable shifts and earned less than their male counterparts.
The alleged behavior violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. La Rana Hawaii, LLC dba Señor Frog’s & Altres, Inc., Case No. CV-11-00799 LEK BMK) after first attempting to resolve the matter through its conciliation process.
As part of the settlement announced Thursday, the parties entered into a three-year consent decree requiring La Rana Hawaii, LLC to pay $350,000 to 13 female claimants.
The company closed its Honolulu establishment in August 2012. Notwithstanding, if La Rana chooses to open another restaurant or chooses to reopen the Senor Frog’s in Hawaii, the consent decree requires substantial injunctive relief including the creation and distribution of an anti-harassment policy along with annual training for all restaurant employees to prevent future instances of sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation. The EEOC will monitor compliance with the agreement.
Altres Inc., a Hawaii staffing company, was contracted by La Rana Hawaii to provide human resources services and oversee the company’s non-management staff during the time in question. The EEOC also named Altres in its lawsuit; Altres previously settled with the EEOC for $150,000 and injunctive relief, including EEO training for its employees.
"Our young workers are all too often the targets of the most insidious forms of sexual harassment, which can spread like wildfire at work," said Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for the EEOC's Los Angeles District Office, which includes Hawaii in its jurisdiction. "Employers who fail to fulfill their moral and legal obligation to prevent and immediately stop the sexual abuse of its young workers will answer to the EEOC."
Timothy Riera, local director for the EEOC's Honolulu Local Office, added, "The EEOC takes workplace harassment against young workers very seriously. Through our Youth@Work outreach, we aim to educate America’s next generation of workers on their right to work in an environment free of harassment and discrimination and their right to report such abuses without retaliation."
The EEOC recently updated its Youth@Work website, which presents information for teens and other young workers about employment discrimination. The website also contains curriculum guides for students and teachers and videos to help young workers learn about their rights and responsibilities in the workforce.
Preventing workplace harassment through systemic litigation and investigation is one of the six national priorities identified by the Commission’s Strategic Enforcement Plan.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.