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Maryland restaurant owner sued for sexually harassing employees

Recent news reports have suggested that there has been an uptick in teenagers suffering from sexual harassment on the job. Some say that teenagers often fall victim to sexual harassment, in part, because they are less likely to be aware of their employment rights than adults, and they also may not know how to report harassment. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit Wednesday against a restaurant company here in Maryland for reportedly harassing a number of female employees, some of them teenagers.

The lawsuit alleges that SPOA, LLC, the operator of Basta Pasta in Lutherville-Timonium and Fallston, Maryland, not only subjected a number of female employees to sexual harassment, but also fired a manager who complained to upper management about the unlawful treatment.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 not only bans sexual harassment, but it also prohibits employers from retaliating against any workers who oppose or report harassment.

In this case, the EEOC lawsuit states that the restaurant owner engaged in physical and verbal forms of sexual harassment. He allegedly touched female employees against their will and rubbed his genitalia on them. He also made crude and suggestive sexual remarks.

He is also accused of pressuring the employees to drink alcohol at the end of their shifts, which led to one woman passing out and then waking up ill. She has said she believes that the owner drugged her. Another woman who met with the owner at his house under the pretenses of discussing a job opportunity says that he drugged her before sexually her.

Two women ultimately quit their jobs to get away from the sexual harassment, and a manager who complained about the owner's actions was fired.

The EEOC is now asking for both punitive and compensatory damages as well as lost wages for the victims. It is also seeking injunctive relief to keep the company from harming anyone else by fostering sexual harassment.

It is important that employees here in Maryland understand that they have a right to work in an environment free from sexual hostility and harassment. Those who are subject to such unlawful behavior may be wise to speak to an employment law attorney.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "EEOC Sues SPOA, LLC, Owner of Basta Pasta for Sexual Harassment and Retaliation," June 5, 2013

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