HONOLULU (AP) – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing the Senor Frog’s bar and restaurant chain, saying its CEO, other high level executives and managers sexually harassed female employees at its now-closed Waikiki location.
The complaint accuses male managers of groping female workers’ breasts and buttocks, and of demanding sex from them. Mangers made graphic, inappropriate and offensive sexual comments, said the lawsuit, which the agency filed in federal court in Honolulu on Thursday. The harassment occurred on a daily basis, it said.
Attorneys for Senor Frog’s didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The managers routinely urged employees, many of whom were under legal drinking age, to drink alcohol with them, the lawsuit said.
They also encouraged employees, and even directed at least two of them, to have sex with high level executives when they visited Honolulu, including the chain’s CEO, the lawsuit said. The CEO was identified in court papers as David Krouham.
“One of the reasons we were so concerned about this case is we saw this harassing behavior permeated up to the most senior levels of management. That was a real problem and a real concern for us,” said Amrita Mallik, a senior trial attorney for the commission. “This was a company that seemed to disregard the rights of the women who worked there.”
The complaint names five managers and three senior executives.
Most of the nine alleged harassment victims were in their teens and early 20s. Many were working at their first job and were students. Managers allegedly retaliated against them after they complained, by giving the workers fewer hours, fewer shifts, and assigning them to cover slower parts of the restaurant where they would earn fewer tips.
The lawsuit targets La Rana Hawaii LLC, the Hawaii unit of Senor Frog’s parent company, Grupo Anderson’s.
Mallik said the commission normally would sue the parent company, but it wasn’t able to in this case because the company’s headquarters is in Cancun, Mexico, and the commission doesn’t have jurisdiction there.
A phone call to Grupo Anderson’s went unanswered. Most businesses in Mexico were closed Friday for a national holiday, Dia de Los Muertos.
Senor Frog’s opened its Waikiki restaurant in 2007 and closed it in August of this year.
The case stems from accusations brought by an employee to the commission in April 2008. The commission initially filed a complaint in December 2011 after attempts to negotiate a settlement failed. It filed an amended lawsuit Friday.
The complaint seeks lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages as well as policy changes and staff training.
The lawsuit also names Altres Inc., a Hawaii company Senor Frogs hired to handle payroll and paperwork. It alleges at least four workers reported the harassment to Altres human resources staff as directed by the employee manual, but Altres failed to take action and allowed the harassment to continue.
Altres CEO Barron Guss said Friday that it thoroughly investigated the one complaint it received and reported it back to Senor Frog’s management.
“It’s not our role to come in and stop harassment and all those things. We can only report on what we find,” Guss said.
Altres and Senor Frog’s ended their contract at the end of 2008.
Associated Press writer Olga R. Rodriguez in Mexico City contributed to this report.
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