EEOC Sues Cracker Barrel For Sex Bias and Discrimination
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a sexual and racial harassment class lawsuit in federal court here against Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc., CBRL Group, Inc., and CBOCS West, Inc. (collectively, "Cracker Barrel").
The EEOC's lawsuit is based upon charges of discrimination filed by 10 workers in three Cracker Barrel restaurants in Matteson, Mattoon, and Bloomington, Illinois, and alleges that the company violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by subjecting female employees in those locations to sexual harassment and retaliation. The federal agency also alleges that African American employees were harassed and subject to different terms and conditions of employment because of their race.
The EEOC said that its administrative investigation which preceded the lawsuit revealed that the harassment of women at the Cracker Barrel facilities included circulation of pornographic photographs and cartoons, obscene jokes, sexual propositions, groping, and sexual assaults. Managers not only refused to investigate or act upon complaints of harassment, according to EEOC's investigation, they became personally involved in it grabbing female employees, propositioning them, and laughing at their complaints. Calls to Cracker Barrel's "1-800 hotline," established to receive complaints, went unanswered.
John Rowe, Director of the EEOC Chicago District Office, said: "What we know already that we have charges of discrimination from 10 separate people, that three separate restaurants in three separate cities are involved, and that management seems to have been unresponsive in every case suggests to us that we are looking at a widespread and serious problem. Cracker Barrel is not a small employer and this is not going to be a little case. But this office has deep experience in dealing with major employment discrimination cases and we look forward to a positive result in this one."
According to Cracker Barrel's Internet web site, the company which started out in 1969 in Lebanon, Tennessee currently has over 500 stores in 41 states and plans to open new ones at a rate of 20 stores per year. It employs more than 45,000 workers. For fiscal year 2003, Cracker Barrel reported revenues of $2.2 billion and net income of $106.5 million, with average annual sales of over $3 million per restaurant. Cracker Barrel also operates more than 100 Logan's Roadhouse restaurants in 17 states.