Sonic Drive-In Settles EEOC Sexual Harassment And Retaliation Suit For $2 Million
Manager Harassed Numerous Female Workers, Including Teens, and Retaliated Against Victims Who Complained
ALBUQUERQUE -- Sonic Drive-In of Los Lunas, Ltd. and B&B Consultants, owners of a Sonic restaurant in Los Lunas, N.M., have agreed to settle a sex discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for $2 million, the agency announced today.
The EEOC’s lawsuit, EEOC v. Sonic Drive-In of Los Lunas Ltd and B&B Consultants Inc., 09-CV-953 WPJ/ACT, charged that Robert Gomez, then a manager of and limited partner in the Los Lunas Sonic, subjected a class of women, including teenagers, to sexual harassment, including sexual comments and innuendo as well as unwanted touching. The EEOC’s suit also alleged that women who asked Gomez to stop harassing them or complained about their work environment were subjected to retaliation in the terms and conditions of their employment, primarily by reducing their hours. The EEOC’s suit further alleged that employees were also forced to quit their jobs because of the sexual harassment, retaliation, and/or the employer’s failure to provide preventive or remedial relief.
Sex discrimination, including sexual harassment, and retaliation against persons who oppose it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The case is the largest litigation settlement ever by the EEOC’s Albuquerque Area Office. Over 70 women are expected to receive relief through the decree. In addition to the substantial monetary relief, the decree prohibits Sonic from further discriminating or retaliating against its employees and requires Sonic to have policies and practices that will provide its employees a work environment free of sex discrimination and retaliation. Sonic must also provide its employees in Los Lunas and other area stores anti-discrimination training and notice of the settlement and report other complaints to the EEOC for the duration of the decree.
“Managers must constantly be reminded of their obligation to maintain workplaces where employees are not subjected to illegal harassment or retaliation,” said Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office “Where managers fail to satisfy these obligations, it is the employer’s responsibility to correct the violations and prevent other violations from occurring. These women and all women deserve to work without being harassed because of their sex. Also, women who have the courage to complain must not suffer retaliation for their efforts to prevent further harassment.”
Acting EEOC Albuquerque Area Director Elizabeth Cadle added, “We are pleased that this employer is taking appropriate steps to assure that no further harassment occurs in its workplaces. Federal law protects a woman’s right to work without harassment because of their sex. Violations of the law will be met with rigorous enforcement by our agency.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.