Fast-food chain Red Robin is being sued for sexual harassment, retaliation and constructive discharge by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Federal civil rights investigations claim violations happened at a 15-worker restaurant in Everett starting in 2020. A line cook allegedly subjected female employees to “unwelcome verbal and physical sexual conduct,” according to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. Western District Court on Wednesday. The EEOC is the federal body that investigates and enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination.
Red Robin opened its first restaurant in Seattle in 1969. In a statement, Red Robin spokesperson Joanna Kaufman said the company is “an equal opportunity employer.”
“We take allegations of harassment and discrimination seriously. We are committed to good faith participation in the legal process,” Kaufman said. “Red Robin is committed to a culture of diversity and inclusion and a workplace environment that respects each team member.”
Among other instances, the 45-year-old line cook mentioned in the suit allegedly followed a female employee to the back of the restaurant, touched her and made sexual remarks.
“The line cook frequently made these unwanted sexual comments in front of other employees, including servers, cooks and management,” the suit read.
According to the lawsuit, he retaliated against a female employee who told him that his conduct was unwelcome by “ignoring her requests for food orders and sauces, which significantly impacted her customer service and tip.”
Red Robin knew about the allegations but did not take action, according to the suit, because female employees told a general manager about the line cook’s unwelcome advances. The general manager failed to act, allegedly saying the line cook had recently gotten out of jail and “that’s just the type of person he is.” The employees alerted Red Robin’s human resources department. It investigated the claims, but the line cook was not fired, the suit read.
The workplace became “so intolerable” that a female employee resigned, according to the suit, adding that Red Robin did not maintain files to determine if employees committed employment violations.