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Waffle House Settles EEOC Retaliation Lawsuit: Federal Agency Charged Restaurant Fired Employee for Complaining About Customer Harassment

EEOC LogoTAMPA, FL - It was announced yesterday that East Coast Waffles, Inc., an Atlanta-based company which owns and operates more than 100 Waffle House restaurants in Florida and Virginia, agreed to settle a retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The EEOC charged in its suit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida that a Tampa Waffle House fired an employee in retaliation for opposing race-based harassment by several customers.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Retaliation for complaining about racial harassment – even from third parties such as customers– violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first investigating the case in Tampa, and then attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

According to the terms of the parties' agreement, East Coast Waffles will pay $25,000 to the terminated employee, provide training to managers, human resources personnel and investigators, and will report to EEOC for two years.

Robert E. Weisberg, regional attorney for the EEOC's Miami District Office said, "We commend East Coast Waffles for working cooperatively with EEOC to quickly resolve this matter without need for costly litigation."

Malcolm Medley, director of the EEOC's Miami District Office, added, "The fear of retaliation can prevent employees from raising legitimate concerns with their employer, even when a company has a hotline or some other mechanism for voicing discrimination or harassment complaints. All employers should carefully examine their own policies and practices to ensure compliance with civil rights law."

This was not the first time Waffle House found itself in court with the EEOC.

In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in EEOC v. Waffle House, Inc. (No. 99-1823) that a private arbitration agreement between an individual and that individual's employer does not prevent the EEOC from filing a court action in its own name and recovering monetary damages for the individual.

In that  case, the Supreme Court recognized that the EEOC is authorized to bring suit in its own name and that the EEOC has the prerogative, as a federal enforcement agency, to decide what relief is appropriately sought in a particular action brought by the EEOC.

About the EEOC

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination.

EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which protects workers 40 years of age and older; the Equal Pay Act; prohibitions against discrimination affecting individuals with disabilities in the federal sector; sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991; and Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments.

The Miami District Office's jurisdiction includes Florida, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands.

From combined reports

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