Virginia Restaurant to Pay $40,000 to Settle EEOC Sexual Orientation Lawsuit

August 12, 2019

A restaurant in Gainesville, Virginia will pay $40,000 and provide significant equitable relief to settle a harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In its lawsuit, the EEOC charged that employees, including other servers and kitchen staff, routinely subjected a gay male server to unwelcome harassing and offensive behavior that included the use of homophobic epithets and taunts about his sexuality. The same employees similarly harassed the server's straight friend, a busser, based on their friendship. Both the server and the busser reported the harassment to management multiple times, but management ignored their complaints, failed to take reasonable measures to curb the harassment, and neglected to implement any anti-harassment policies or training. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination or harassment based on "sex".. While the majority of federal courts considering the issue have found Title VII's reference to "sex" does not include sexual orientation, the EEOC has determined that it does. "The EEOC is committed to ensuring that no employee or applicant is discriminated against or harassed based on sexual orientation," said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence.