GRK Fresh Greek, a restaurant chain with four stores in New York City, violated federal law by subjecting female employees to groping, grinding and lascivious comments, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the district manager of GRK’s four New York City restaurants touched female employees’ breasts and backsides; ground into their backsides with his crotch; placed his head on their breasts; hugged and picked them up; and massaged their shoulders.
The EEOC said the district manager told one employee that she would make a good stripper and that he’d like to sleep with her mother; described the tattoo near his genitals while patting his thigh; called female employees “bitches,” “baby,” and “beautiful”; talked about wanting them to lose weight or wear tighter clothing; and discussed his and their sex lives.
The lawsuit also charges that female employees complained to the district manager and told him to stop, but that he laughed and continued harassing them. They complained to other managers as well, but nothing was done. With no end in sight to this continuing harassment, some felt compelled to resign, the EEOC said.
All this alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination—including harassment—because of sex.
The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (EEOC v. GRK Fresh Holdings LLC et al., Civil Action No. 1:19-cv-04614) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief. The agency’s litigation effort will be led by Trial Attorney Daniel Seltzer and Supervisory Trial Attorney Nora Curtin.
“As this case demonstrates, sexual harassment of employees in the restaurant industry is an ongoing problem,” said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office. “The EEOC stands ready to protect workers in this and other industries from harassment if their employers fail to do so.”
Seltzer added, “Simply having an anti-harassment policy doesn’t cut it. An employer must have an effective procedure for employees to report harassment, and must promptly rectify it. Where, as here, an employer fails to do so, the EEOC will step in.”
According to Kevin Berry, the EEOC’s New York District director, “No employee should have to endure pervasive verbal and physical harassment simply to earn a living.”
The EEOC’s New York District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, northern New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The Buffalo Local Office conducted the investigation resulting in this lawsuit.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov