IHOP Settles Harassment Case for $875k

The operator of two IHOP restaurants in Illinois has agreed to fire two managers and three cooks who the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says sexually harassed or assaulted at least a dozen employees, and pay $875,000 to the alleged victims.

U.S. District Judge David Herndon in East St. Louis, Illinois on Thursday approved a consent decree between the EEOC and 2098 Restaurant Group LLC, which denied any wrongdoing.

An EEOC spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Nor did the company’s lawyers at Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker.

The commission said the manager of an IHOP in Glen Carbon, Illinois owned by 2098 Restaurant Group had made inappropriate comments to several female employees and assaulted at least two of them.

In one incident, the manager held a steak knife to a waitress’ throat after she rebuffed him, and on another occasion he tried to trap a worker in his office, the EEOC said in a lawsuit filed last year.

The commission said that three cooks at the restaurants took part in the harassment and routinely groped and propositioned waitresses. Some of the women were fired or demoted after they complained to IHOP’s corporate offices, according to the lawsuit.

The commission also claimed in the same lawsuit that the manager of an IHOP that was also owned by the company in Alton, Illinois, sexually harassed a male employee.

The agency accused 2098 Restaurant Group of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by allowing the harassment at both restaurants to occur.

Two former waitresses at the restaurant intervened in the lawsuit last year and filed a separate complaint accusing the company of violating Illinois’ Gender Violence Act, which prohibits committing, encouraging or assisting sexual violence.

The company moved to dismiss the women’s complaint, saying the GVA imposed liability only on individuals, and not corporations. Judge Herndon never decided the motion.

The settlement approved on Thursday also applies to the claims brought by individual workers.

In addition to the payout and the firing of the managers and cooks, the company agreed to notify the commission of any sexual harassment complaints made over the duration of the four-year agreement.

The case is EEOC v. 2103 Restaurant Group LLC, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, No.3:17-cv-01002.