NEW YORK – Stardust Diners, Inc., a restaurant that has operated for decades in East Meadow, Nassau County, N.Y., under the name Colony Diner, violated federal law by subjecting its female employees to harassment on the basis of sex, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC’s suit, the Colony Diner’s owners and other male employees created, encouraged and tolerated a work environment in which female servers and hostesses experienced unwelcome verbal commentary and physical touching on a daily basis. Women who objected to the harassment were assigned to sections of the restaurant in which they earned very few tips in retaliation for their complaints. Because the unlawful environment was condoned by management, the women had nowhere else to turn and were forced to either endure the harassment or leave their employment.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits workplace discrimination (including harassment) based on sex. Prohibited forms of harassment include both sexual harassment and other sex-based harassment such as derogatory remarks about women that are not necessarily sexual in nature. The law requires employers to take prompt action to investigate and stop harassment based on sex after they receive notice of it and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for complaining about such abuse.
The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Stardust Diners, Inc. d/b/a Colony Diner, Civil Action No. 21-CV-3122) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York after first attempting a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The suit seeks back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages for the employees, as well as injunctive relief designed to prevent future discrimination. The agency’s litigation effort will be led by Trial Attorney Kirsten Peters and Supervisory Trial Attorney Kimberly Cruz.
“Once an employer becomes aware of workplace harassment, the law requires that it investigate and take prompt corrective action to stop the unlawful conduct,” said Judy Keenan, the EEOC’s New York District director. “That includes sexual harassment as well as derogatory remarks based on an employee’s sex.”
Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office, added, “A hostile work environment created by the employer’s owners or high-level managers can be especially devastating to harassment victims. And under federal employment discrimination law, when the owner, CEO or president of a company is proven to have created the hostile work environment, the company will almost always be liable.”
The EEOC’s New York District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, northern New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The New York District Office located in Manhattan conducted the investigation resulting in this lawsuit.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.