Va. Mexican Cantina Settles Harassment Suit

Staff at this Virginia restaurant should be, more comfortable at work knowing that their bosses are not committed to protecting their workers from harassment.

A Bluefield, Va., Mexican restaurant will pay $25,000 and provide other relief to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced June 7.

According to EEOC’s lawsuit, Alexus Dudeck worked as a hostess at La Fiesta Fresh Mexican Grill and Cantina. In 2015, Dudeck, then 18 years old, was subjected to unwelcome sexual comments and touching by a significantly older male manager. The suit alleged that the manager had previously engaged in the same or similar sexual conduct with at least one other female employee of the company. At the time the alleged sexual harassment occurred, La Fiesta did not have a sexual harassment policy or employee complaint procedures in effect. After Dudeck complained about the sexual harassment, La Fiesta reduced her work hours, according to the EEOC’s lawsuit.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace and also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who oppose the harassment. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, Abingdon Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Price Ventures, LLC d/b/a La Fiesta Fresh Mexican Grill and Cantina, Civil Action No. 1:17cv00041) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process.

Under the consent decree resolving this case, La Fiesta has also agreed to implement new policies, conduct training for employees and management, post an anti-discrimination notice at the workplace, and report compliance to the EEOC for a three-year period.

“Protecting vulnerable workers is a top priority for the EEOC,” said Kara Gibbon Haden, acting regional attorney for EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “We hope that this case sends a clear message that the EEOC will hold accountable employers who fail to protect their employees from workplace harassment.”

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