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EEOC Accuses California Restaurant Chain of Sexual Harassment

On Behalf of | Oct 17, 2022 | Sexual Harassment

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued the upscale California Italian restaurant Il Fornaio for persistent sexual harassment suffered by female workers. The complaint, filed Aug. 24, alleges that male supervisors and co-workers sexually harassed several female workers and retaliated against them after they complained of the sexual harassment.

The EEOC alleges that the male employees frequently subjected the workers to sexual remarks, graphic sexual images, and unwelcome touching. Multiple women allegedly reported the behavior, and management did not respond to complaints and warned others against coming forward.

The Lawsuit Outlines Years of Complaints and Retaliation against Female Employees who Reported Sexual Harassment

The EEOC filing does not reveal how many women reported sexual harassment while working at Il Fornaio, but the behavior was documented as early as 2016. A former restaurant hostess says she was sexually harassed for years when she started working there between 2017 and 2019, and that she was forced to resign to escape the inappropriate behavior.

The EEOC says other female workers reported similar treatment, which included being groped in the buttocks and genitals. Others alleged that co-workers showed them pornography on cell phones. When they complained, supervisors allegedly threatened them, cut their hours and shifts, refused time off requests, or gave them less favorable job duties.

Il Fornaio Reportedly Fails to Heed EEOC Warning

The EEOC notified the restaurant chain in January that the agency had “reasonable cause” that it had violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The lawsuit says the warning gave Il Fornaio the chance to stop discriminatory practices, but that never happened.

The lawsuit requests a jury trial as well as an injunction ordering the company and management from allowing further sexual harassment. The EEOC is seeking compensation for the employees who were sexually harassed as well as punitive damages over Title VII violations.

The complaint does not detail which of the chain’s 20 locations are involved. Il Fornaio has restaurants in Beverly Hills, Manhattan Beach, Woodland Hills, Del Mar, Irvine, and Pasadena. Nine others are located in northern California, and one is in Las Vegas.

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