Thursday 29 June 2017

St. Louis Galleria Restaurant Sued over Sex Harassment Allegations

The St. Louis Today is reporting that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Villa Pizza (a/k/a Villa Fresh Italian Kitchen) alleging an assistant manager sexually harassed an employee  who was retalitated against when she complained. Villa Pizza is a national franchise owned by Villa Enterprises Management Inc., which has four different franchises in over 38 states.

The suit alleges sexual harrasment by assistant manager Brian Jones. Jones allegedly rubbed his body against the employee’s body, groped and try to kiss her. According to the complaint when the employee complained Villa Pizza retaliated by reducing her hours subjecting her to heightened discipline and scrutiny and inserting false accusations into her personnel record.

As mentioned in earlier posts sexual harassment cases fall into two categories – quid pro quo and hostile work environment. The EEOC claims the restaurant subjected the employee  to a hostile work environment because it was aware of the manager’s actions. Worse yet instead of addressing the behavior the chain went further afoul of the law and retaliated against the employee. Employees are protected in complaining about sexual harassment. It’s important to train all personnel on this point. If in doubt about what to do always consult legal counsel. It will ultimately be cheaper than defending a lawsuit.

This is also an important lesson for franchise owners. The actions of one franchise owner can impact the entire brand. When news stories like this break in your area you may want to take steps to protect your franchise interest.

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