Golden Corral Franchisee To Pay $85,000 to Settle Disability and Sex Harassment Lawsuit

July 16, 2018

Jax, LLC, which operates a Golden Corral restaurant in Matthews, N.C., has agreed to pay $85,000 and provide other relief to settle a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC had charged that Jax discriminated against an employee when it subjected him to a hostile work environ­ment based on both his disability (autism) and his sex (male). The EEOC had also charged that the employee was forced to resign because of the harassment.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Sean Fernandez worked as a dishwasher at the Matthews Golden Corral. Fernandez has high-functioning autism, which limits his ability to communicate and interact with others. The EEOC alleged that, from around March or April 2014 until January 2016, a male assistant manager created a hostile work environment by repeatedly referring to Fernandez as “retard,” calling him “stupid,” and using profanity. The assistant manager also asked for oral sex from Fernandez, threatened to sexually assault him, and subjected him to unwanted physical contact. Fernandez filed a complaint with the general and district managers, but the company failed to take effective action to prevent and correct the hostile work environment. Fernandez resigned his employment because he was fearful of encountering the assistant manager again.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities, as well as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual harassment. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Charlotte Division after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its concil­iation process.

In addition to providing monetary relief to Fernandez, Jax, LLC entered into a two-year consent decree requiring the company to implement an anti-discrimination policy that prohibits disability-based and sex-based discrimination. The decree further requires the company to conduct annual training for its Matthews employees and managers on the ADA and Title VII. Jax must also post an employee notice about the lawsuit and about employee rights under federal anti-discrimination laws at its Matthews facility, and must provide periodic reports to the EEOC.