NEW YORK – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced the settlement of a harassment and retaliation lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act against Tavern on the Green, a landmark restaurant located in Central Park in New York City, for $2.2 million and significant remedial relief.
The EEOC charged in the case that Tavern on the Green engaged in severe and pervasive sexual, racial, and national origin harassment of female, black, and Hispanic employees. The sexual harassment included graphic comments and demands for various sex acts, as well as groping of women’s buttocks and breasts. The racial and national origin harassment included epithets toward black and Hispanic employees and ridiculing Hispanics for their accents. The restaurant also retaliated against employees for refusing to consent to and/or objecting to the harassment, according to the EEOC.
The consent decree resolving the suit was submitted for approval today to U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Peck of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The EEOC sued Tavern on the Green on Sept. 24, 2007 (Civil Action No. 07-CV-8256) after conducting an administrative investigation and first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement out of court.
“We are pleased that this settlement will provide appropriate relief for the individuals who have been harmed,” said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Kam S.Wong of the New York District Office. “We are likewise glad that this employer is taking proactive measures to ensure a discrimination-free workplace in the future by addressing the problems that led to the lawsuit.”
As part of the consent decree, a claim fund of $2.2 million will be allocated to victims of the harassment and/or retaliation. Additionally, the restaurant will establish a telephone hotline which employees may use to raise any discrimination complaints, distribute a revised policy against discrimination and retaliation, and provide training to all employees against discrimination and retaliation.
EEOC New York District Director Spencer H. Lewis said, “This case should remind employers to take seriously allegations of harassment and retaliation, especially where managers in positions of authority are involved in the misconduct.”
On Feb. 28, 2007, EEOC Chair Naomi C. Earp launched the Commission's E-RACE Initiative (Eradicating Racism and Colorism from Employment), a national outreach, education, and enforcement campaign focusing on new and emerging race and color issues in the 21st century workplace. Further information about the E-RACE Initiative is available on the EEOC’s web site at http://www.eeoc.gov/initiatives/e-race/index.html.
According to its web site, www.tavernonthegreen.com, the restaurant is “one of New York’s most dazzling dining experiences…Built to house sheep in 1870, the building now known as Tavern on the Green became a restaurant in 1934…and is currently the highest-grossing independently-owned restaurant in the United States with annual revenues in excess of $34 million and over half a million visitors a year.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.