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EEOC Sues Apple Metro Restaurant Chain for Sex Discrimination and Retaliation

By U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission - 2017-06-09

Summary

Transgender employee harassed at Hawthorne Applebee's because of her gender identity and fired for objecting, federal agency charges.

"The law requires employers who receive reports of sex harassment to investigate and take action to stop any unlawful treatment of their employees..."

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Apple Metro, Inc., which operates several dozen Applebee's Neighborhood Bar & Grill restaurants in the New York City area, violated federal civil rights law by firing a woman for complaining about sex harassment at the company's Hawthorne, N.Y., restaurant, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC's complaint, Apple Metro staff made numerous crude and derogatory references to the employee's transgender status, repeatedly and intentionally referred to her with a male name and male pronouns, and made offensive comments about her genitalia. After the employee complained to management about the harassment on several occasions, the company fired her.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits workplace discrimination (including harassment) based on sex and likewise forbids retaliating against individuals because they object to such discrimination.

"The law requires employers who receive reports of sex harassment to investigate and take action to stop any unlawful treatment of their employees," said Kevin Berry, the EEOC's New York District director. "That includes harassment of individuals because of their gender identity."

The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (EEOC v. Apple-Metro, Inc. d/b/a Applebee's Neighborhood Bar & Grill, Civil Action No. 17-cv-4333), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency's litigation effort will be led by Trial Attorneys Kirsten Peters and Chinyere Ezie and supervised by Supervisory Trial Attorney Justin Mulaire.

"The EEOC is committed to protecting the rights of all employees under federal law, through litigation if necessary, so that employees can work with dignity," said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC's New York District Office.

Trial Attorney Kirsten Peters added, "The opportunity to earn a living free from sex discrimination and retaliation is a basic civil right, and that right extends to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees as well."

The New York District Office of the EEOC is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in New York, northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov

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