EEOC sues Merrill restaurant for sexual harassment, retaliation

New Pine Ridge Restaurant in Merrill violated federal law by allowing female employees to be sexually harassed and not acting to stop it, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed Monday.
According to John Rowe, director of EEOC’s Chicago District, which includes Wisconsin, the agency’s investigation revealed that one of the restaurant’s cooks, Shahi N. Selmani, created a sexually hostile work environment when he repeatedly made crude remarks to waitresses and grabbed their breasts. The EEOC charged that despite complaints from the waitresses, the restaurant’s owner took no action to stop Selmani’s harassment, and that some of the women were fired in retaliation for complaining about the sexually hostile work environment.
Selmani did not stop working for the restaurant until months after the Lincoln County District Attorney began an investigation which led to Selmani pleading no contest on Dec. 9, 2010, to having committed Class A misdemeanor battery against three waitresses. Three other misdemeanors – fourth-degree sexual assault, bail jumping and disorderly conduct – were dismissed but “read into” the record of Selmani’s conviction.
Sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks lost wages and compensatory and punitive damages for the victims, in addition to an order barring future discrimination, and other relief. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin in Madison.
On July 7, 2011, in a similar case in Forest County, Selmani pled no contest to two more counts of Class A misdemeanor battery and, among other things, was ordered to “participate [in] and complete a sex offender treatment program.”
“The Supreme Court has held that when an employer learns of sexual harassment, it must take immediate, appropriate, and effective action to stop it,” Rowe said. “Here the EEOC contends that the owner was aware of the harassment but took no action, and women suffered as a result.”

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