Upscale Italian restaurant chain Il Fornaio is being sued by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for allegedly allowing female workers to be sexually harassed by male supervisors, managers and co-workers and for having retaliated against those who complained.
The agency filed the lawsuit Wednesday, August 24, in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
The EEOC did not provide details about which company restaurants were involved or how many female employees were allegedly harassed. Il Fornaio has Southern California locations in Woodland Hills, Beverly Hills, Manhattan Beach, Pasadena, Irvine and Del Mar. The company also has nine restaurants in Northern California and one in Las Vegas.
The EEOC’s complaint says the alleged harassment began as early as 2016, with frequent and offensive remarks of a sexual and unwelcome nature. moving. The agency also alleges that II Fornaio’s management failed to investigate the complaints or take corrective action while discouraging the filing of new complaints.
II Fornaio representatives could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
The lawsuit stems from allegations of discrimination filed 30 days earlier by an employee (identified in the complaint only as the “prosecuting party”) who began working as a hostess II Fornaio in 2017. She continued to work until May 2019, when she was forced to resign due to “continued sexual harassment by a manager and co-workers,” the EEOC lawsuit states.
Other female employees (the complaint does not say how many) complained of similar treatment, the EEOC said, including being groped around the buttocks and genitals and viewing pornography on mobile phone screens.
When employees complained, supervisors at Il Fornaio reportedly retaliated, reducing the number of shifts or hours women worked, forcing employees to do more arduous work, or refusing leave requests and making threats, the EEOC said.
The lawsuit says the workers began complaining verbally and in writing to II Fornaio supervisors, management and the company’s human resources department as early as 2016, to no avail.
On. On January 11, 2022, the commission issued II Fornaio a letter of determination finding “reasonable cause” to believe that the company had violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC gave the restaurant chain a chance to remedy the discriminatory practices, but that never happened to the agency’s satisfaction, according to the lawsuit.
Anna Park, regional attorney for the Los Angeles District of the EEOC, said the type of behavior that occurred at II Fornaio can spread quickly if left unchecked.
“Harassment in the restaurant industry remains a persistent problem that requires employer vigilance to ensure the appropriate mechanisms are working to address harassment before it enters the workplace,” said Park in a statement.
The lawsuit seeks a jury trial on the issues in the complaint and an injunction restraining the company and management from further engaging in inappropriate behavior.
He further seeks punitive damages and employee compensation for past and future monetary losses related to Title VII violations, the amounts of which will be determined at trial.