Cañon City Chili’s Restaurant to Pay $150,000 to Settle EEOC Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Lawsuit

DENVER, CO (STL.News) A Chili’s restaurant in Cañon City, Colorado, will pay $150,000 and furnish other relief to settle a lawsuit charging sex-based harassment and retaliation filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

According to the EEOC, five female servers and hostesses were subjected to sexual harassment, including pervasive sexual comments and innuendo between 2015 and 2017.  The EEOC charged that the restaurant failed to take preventative or corrective action when employees complained about the harassment and that some women who could not tolerate the harassment were forced to resign.  The EEOC also alleged that management took retaliatory action against some of the female employees who complained about the harassment, including a reduction in scheduled hours.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits retaliation and employment discrimination based on sex, including sexual harassment.  The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado (EEOC v. Brinker Restaurant Corporation d/b/a Chili’s Grill & Bar and Brinker International Payroll Company, L.P., Civil Action No. 1:19-cv-00970-CMA-KMT) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process.

Under the terms of the two-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit, each of the five women will receive a portion of the $150,000 settlement.  The decree also requires the restaurant to provide training to all managers, supervisors, and workers each year of the decree.  Training for managers will focus on sex discrimination and retaliation as well proper methods for handling employee complaints.  The restaurant will also post a notice with the EEOC’s contact information and will report semi-annually to the EEOC on how the company has addressed reports of sex discrimination and retaliation.

“We applaud the efforts by this employer to reach a resolution with the EEOC that provides both meaningful monetary relief and important equitable relief,” said Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office.  “The restaurant’s willingness to engage in significant training of its employees and managers shows its commitment to preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.”

EEOC Denver Field Office Director Amy Burkholder said, “Employers need to know that they have an important responsibility to ensure that workplaces are safe and free from this kind of abuse, and the EEOC is here to defend the rights of sexual harassment victims.”