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Merrill, Wisconsin, restaurant settles sexual harassment lawsuit

When employers learn of sexual harassment in their places of employment, they are bound by federal law to immediately take an effective action to put a stop to it. When employers fail to respond appropriately to reports of sexual harassment, they can be held accountable and they may be liable for damages to victims.

A restaurant in Merrill, Wisconsin, agreed this week to pay $41,000 to servers who were harassed on the job and then retaliated against. A cook at the restaurant reportedly made sexually inappropriate remarks to female servers and even grabbed their breasts. When they complained to their employer, instead of taking appropriate and effective action the restaurant owner fired some of the women and allowed the cook to continue working, according to a lawsuit that was later filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The cook was not fired until months after the women complained to their employer, but was ultimately let go when criminal sexual assault and battery charges were filed against him.

The employer has now agreed to pay one of the victims $41,000, and the restaurant's owner and employees will all undergo training on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Retaliation complaints are reportedly the fastest-growing kind of complaint filed with the EEOC. While the EEOC has shown that it takes such complaints seriously by resolving cases such as this, It does not have the means to take on every case. However, this does not mean people should put up with harassment, discrimination or retaliation in the workplace. Those whose rights have been violated may benefit from talking to an employment law attorney about holding the employer accountable, obtaining compensation, and ensuring no one else will be harassed at the same workplace.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "New Pine Ridge Restaurant to pay $41,000 to Settle Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Suit," Jan. 17, 2013

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