Two days after bringing sexual harassment claims against IHOP locations in Illinois, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission brought a class action against several franchisees of the restaurant chain in Nevada federal court Thursday, alleging rampant sexual harassment, an illegal policy that discouraged employees from reporting such incidents, and retaliation against workers who complained.
The suit said that the hostile work environment, sexual harassment and retaliatory practices violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991. It alleges that nine related restaurant groups in New York and Las Vegas, all of which are managed by defendant Dominick Conti, implemented an illegal policy that said workers who were sexually harassed by another employee had 72 hours to report the incident in writing to the franchise’s New York office or they’d waive their legal rights against the company. The EEOC said that policy discouraged women from complaining about harassment and allowed local managers to shrug off responsibility for the incidents.
“Defendants’ policy deterred sexual harassment complaints by requiring that detailed written statements be mailed to New York corporate headquarters and prohibits submission of complaints to managers at locations where employees work and where the harassment would have occurred,” the complaint said. “When the charging parties and similarly aggrieved individuals attempted to complain about sexual harassment to local management, local management failed to take any preventative or corrective action. Management frequently laughed off complaints, refusing to take them seriously.”
Wendy Martin, director of the EEOC's Las Vegas local office, said in a statement Thursday that it was a company’s responsibility to ensure its policies comply with the law.