Popular Restaurant Franchisee, Shane’s Rib Shack, Subjected Teenage Employee to Sexually Hostile Work Environment Then Fired Her for Complaining, Federal Agency Charges
ATLANTA, GA (STL.News) RSPS Holdings, a franchisee of the popular fast-casual barbeque restaurant Shane’s Rib Shack, violated federal law when it subjected a teenage female employee to a hostile work environment based on her sex, then fired her in retaliation for complaining about it, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed on February 6, 2024.
According to the EEOC’s suit, the female employee — who was a college freshman at the time — was sexually harassed by an older male manager from September to December 2021. During that time, the manager of Shane’s Rib Shack made daily unwanted comments about the female employee’s physical appearance and his romantic feelings for her, spread false sexual rumors about her, and cornered her in areas of the restaurant without cameras, demanding a hug or attention from her before allowing her to pass by.
The female employee complained about the harassment to her supervisor on multiple occasions, but no effective remedial action was taken in response. Instead, the restaurant terminated her shortly after her last complaint.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual harassment and retaliation against those who complain about it. The EEOC filed suit (5:24-CV-00049-TES) in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, Macon Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages for the employee, as well as injunctive relief to prevent future discrimination.
“Under Title VII, employers have a duty to protect their employees from sexual harassment at work,” said Marcus G. Keegan, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office. “When the Shane’s Rib Shack franchisee learned about the misconduct, it should have taken reasonable steps to correct it. Instead, the company punished a teenage employee for exercising her rights rather than the individual who was harassing her. The EEOC will fight to correct the injustices perpetrated in this case.”
Darrell Graham, district director of the Atlanta office, said, “All employees have the right to be free from sexual harassment in the workplace, and they should not be punished for exercising those rights. The EEOC remains committed to protecting and enforcing these rights, particularly in those cases involving our most vulnerable employees, such as teenage workers in hourly positions.”
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