Restaurant manager had a long history of harassing young, pretty servers

Imagine if your boss directed you to only hire women who are “screwable.”

According to a recent lawsuit, that’s the order supervisors at one Texas Roadhouse restaurant were allegedly given.

The restaurant manager’s affinity for young pretty servers was an open secret, according to a group of female servers who recently sued the company. They claim that women who complained about his lewd behavior suffered retaliation.

However, in the end, the women achieved justice.

Let’s take a look at what happened here and then discuss what you need to know about unlawful retaliation.

Power Play

In his position as a managing partner at an Ohio Texas Roadhouse, Eric Price enjoyed an impressive title and a comfortable salary. He also enjoyed the power that came with his position.

Former employees of the restaurant claim that Price frequently propositioned young female servers. As they tell it, Price would imply that the women would lose their jobs if they didn’t comply with his requests.

According to the lawsuit, Price directed supervisors to evaluate job candidates on whether or not they were “screwable” enough for Price to take back to his apartment.

Several women, including some as young as 17, complained to their supervisors and upper management about Price’s behavior. However, they allege that their complaints were met with retaliation. For example, some say that their jobs were threatened, that they were given less-favorable schedules, or that they were demoted or fired.

Price was eventually fired, too, after he was seen inappropriately touching a 17-year old staffer on surveillance camera footage.

One of the women who had been harassed reported Price’s behavior to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The agency sued the company on behalf of 12 women who claimed they had been victimized by Price.

The agency that claimed that the company owners failed to take any reasonable steps to stop Price’s behavior.

The company attempted to have the case thrown out but it was unsuccessful. In denying the company’s motion, the judge noted a long history of complaints about Price, beginning with his first month of employment with the company.

The company agreed to settle the case. It must pay the 12 women a total of $1.4 million. It must also reinstate any affected employees who were terminated or driven off the job because of Price’s behavior.

As part of the settlement conditions, the company may not rehire Price.

(The case discussed here is EEOC v. East Columbus Host, LLC d/b/a Texas Roadhouse and Ultra Steak. See more here.)

Harassment from Above

Sexual harassment by a supervisor may feel particularly difficult to fight. After all, facing off against a person of power may mean that your job could be compromised.

However, it’s important to understand that no one should have to put up with inappropriate behavior in order to keep a job. Federal law provides protection from retaliation for employees who have complained about unlawful activity. That protection also often extends to employees who participate in someone else’s complaint.

According to this fact sheet from the EEOC, retaliation may include a variety of acts, including:

  • reprimanding or giving a performance evaluation that is lower than it should be;
  • transferring the employee to a less desirable position;
  • engaging in verbal or physical abuse;
  • threatening to make, or actually making reports to authorities (such as reporting immigration status or contacting the police);
  • increasing scrutiny;
  • spreading false rumors;
  • treating an employee’s family member negatively (for example, canceling a contract with the person’s spouse); or
  • making the person’s work more difficult (for example, punishing an employee for a complaint by purposefully changing his or her work schedule to conflict with family responsibilities).

If you’ve been subjected to potentially unlawful sexual harassment at work, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney.

Email us at murphy@phillyemploymentlawyer.com, or call (267) 273-1054 for a free consultation.