More than 60 women have come forward with allegations of sexual harassment against managers, co-workers and franchise owners of Applebee’s and IHOP restaurants. According to a Vox news report, the complaints range from groping and inappropriate comments to outright threats of violence when one manager’s requests for sex were denied. Vox found that both restaurants, which are owned by California-based DineEquity, have been involved in eight federal sexual harassment lawsuits since 2010. The site also noted that this was the most of any individual restaurant chain during that time.
Slew of Incidents
In one class-action lawsuit, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against two IHOP owners in Illinois on behalf of 11 female employees and one male employee. That included one woman who was 16 at the time of the alleged harassment. The suit, filed in 2017, alleges that one of the restaurant’s general managers told several women they were “sexy” and allegedly harassed a 16-year-old girl, threatening violence when she refused his advances. Also, in 2012, the manager allegedly grabbed the girl from behind and held a knife to her throat telling her he didn’t appreciate she said “no” to him.
Employees for the same IHOP were also accused of groping servers’ breasts and buttocks against their will and were met with indifference from management when they reported the manager’s inappropriate behavior. A similar lawsuit was filed against owners of Las Vegas and New York locations on behalf of servers who claimed that managers disregarded complaints of sexual harassment by male employees.
In addition, the EEOC filed lawsuits on behalf of two sisters who worked at Applebee’s in South Carolina. Both claim their assistant manager would rub himself against their bodies or grope them. In another case, which has been settled, employees at a North Dakota Applebee’s alleged that their manager would expose himself and forced one worker to perform oral sex for a raise, according to court documents that Vox obtained. The restaurant ended up settling with the 17 accusers for $1 million.
Creating a Hostile Work Environment
These are the latest cases to shine the light on sexual misconduct within the restaurant industry – be it celebrity chefs like Mario Batali or casual dining chains like IHOP and Applebee’s. State and federal laws clearly state that it is unlawful for employees to be sexually harassed, physically or verbally. When repeated harassment and abuse occur, it creates a hostile work environment for employees, which is unacceptable.
If you have been sexually harassed in the workplace, you may be able to seek compensation for damages including pain and suffering, emotional distress and even cost of psychological therapy. An experienced California employment lawyer will be able to help you better understand your legal rights and options.