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December 09, 2004
Burger King Franchise Settles Sexual Harassment Suit

The owners of a Burger King Franchise in Peerless Park, Missouri, have agreed to pay $400,000 to settle a sexual harassment suit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

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The EEOC's lawsuit alleged that in 2000 and 2001, restaurant manager Nathan Kraus subjected seven female employees, including six high school students, to repeated groping, vulgar sexual comments, and demands for sex. According to the EEOC, several of the young women complained to assistant managers at the restaurant as well as to a district manager, but no one took action to stop the harassment. None of the female employees had received training on how to make a sexual harassment complaint.

Weeks later, the EEOC says, several of the women filed internal complaints with the corporate office. Following a brief company investigation, Kraus was allowed to resign and one of the assistant managers, although initially reprimanded, was later promoted to a restaurant manager position, according to the EEOC.

The EEOC filed the lawsuit against Midamerica Hotels Corporation and Northwest Development Company, which together or separately operate approximately 38 Burger King restaurants in Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, and Kentucky. The seven women intervened in the EEOC's lawsuit as individual plaintiffs.

In settling the lawsuit, the companies denied any wrongdoing.

Under the settlement, which still must be approved by the court, Midamerica and Northwest have agreed to pay the young women a total of $400,000 in damages and attorneys' fees.

In addition, the companies will conduct extensive sexual harassment training for management personnel, including eight hours of training for several upper-level managers, distribute the revised sexual harassment policy and procedure to all restaurant employees, and more prominently post an 800-number hotline for reporting harassment throughout their restaurants.

The agency says that due to an increasing number of teen harassment cases over the past few years, the agency recently launched an unprecedented national outreach and public education initiative called "Youth@Work." The program is being implemented over the course of the next year at agency field offices nationwide to address issues of discrimination against teenage employees and to increase awareness of their employment rights and responsibilities.

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