After settling a $1.9M lawsuit in 2017 for discriminating against hundreds of Black applicants, EEOC sues popular Chicago restaurant again
Crusader Staff Report
Rosebud Restaurants, Inc. recently paid $160,000 to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC’s lawsuit charged Rosebud, which owns approximately nine Italian restaurants in the Chicagoland area, with violating federal civil rights laws when it subjected two women to sexual harassment. One of the women was fired after she complained about the harassment and objected to employees referring to African-Americans by racial slurs.
In June 2017, Rosebud paid $1.9 million to settle another EEOC lawsuit which alleged the restaurant discriminated against hundreds of Black applicants seeking work. When the EEOC completed its investigation, they discovered that less than one percent of Rosebud’s 800-900 employee workforce was Black. That’s about eight or nine Black people.
According to that lawsuit, the EEOC also charged that managers, including Rosebud owner Alex Dana, used racial slurs to refer to Blacks. At the time the EEOC began investigating Rosebud’s hiring practices, many of its restaurants had no African-American employees at all. The EEOC also asserted that Rosebud violated federal regulations by failing to maintain employment applications for one year and by failing to file employer information reports providing employment data by job category, race, ethnicity, and gender.
Rosebud signed a consent decree that requires the restaurant chain to boost the number of its Black employees to be African-American, 11 percent of Rosebud’s future workforce.
According to the latest EEOC lawsuit, Tina Rosenthal, who worked as a server at Rosebud’s now-closed Centro location in Chicago, was sexually harassed by another server in 2013. The alleged harassment included unwelcome sexual comments, sexual propositions, unwelcome touching and assaulting Rosenthal by grabbing her between her legs. Rosenthal complained about the harassment to managers, but Rosebud did not take adequate steps to address her complaints, the EEOC said. In addition, Rosenthal, who is white, objected during a company meeting to employees using racial slurs to refer to Blacks. A few weeks later, according to the EEOC, Rosebud fired Rosenthal for pretextual reasons.
In May 2018, the EEOC amended its complaint to seek relief for other women who it believed were subjected to sexual harassment at Rosebud. During the litigation, it identified another woman who was allegedly sexually harassed in 2014 while working at Centro by the same server who had harassed Rosenthal.
Sexual harassment and retaliation violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The EEOC filed its lawsuit on September 20, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago (Civil Action No. 17 6815), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In September 2013, the EEOC sued Rosebud for failing to hire African-American applicants because of their race. That suit settled in May 2017 with a four-year consent decree providing $1.9 million in monetary relief for Black applicants who were denied jobs at Rosebud and requiring hiring goals for African-Americans, recruiting of Black applicants, monitoring of Rosebud’s hiring practices, and anti-discrimination training.
U.S. District Judge John Blakey signed the order entering the consent decree resolving the sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit on Oct. 15, 2018. In addition to providing for $160,000 in monetary relief to the harassed women, the decree prohibits Rosebud from engaging in sexual harassment or retaliation in the future. Further, Rosebud must provide annual training to all its employees regarding sexual harassment during the decree’s two-year term and provide semi-annual reports to the EEOC of any complaints about harassment or retaliation.
“This case is an unfortunate example of what happens when an employer fails to act on a harassment complaint,” said Greg Gochanour, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office. “If Rosebud had taken Ms. Rosenthal’s complaint seriously, it may have been able to prevent another woman from being abused. Instead, the harasser faced no consequences when Rosenthal complained and was undeterred from harassing again.”
Julianne Bowman, the EEOC’s Chicago District director, added, “Rosebud then made a bad situation worse by turning around and firing Ms. Rosenthal for complaining about harassment and racially offensive comments. Retaliatory termination is illegal, and the EEOC will not tolerate it. For employment discrimination laws to be meaningful, employees need to be able to raise concerns about discrimination and harassment without fear of reprisal.”