11 women and one man are taking their case to Federal Court against the International House of Pancakes. The plaintiffs allege that managers at the IHOPs that they worked for in Glen Carbon and Alton, Illinois acted indifferently amid their numerous complaints of sexual harassment and misconduct against staff.
The lawsuit comes at the same time that increased awareness concerning sexual harassment has made global headlines thanks to the #MeToo movement. The movement began after widespread allegations against Harvey Weinstein for sexual misconduct and rape created a tidal wave of women sharing their stories about similar experiences.
In Missouri, the #MeToo movement appears to have had a hand in killing legislation that would have forced employees into settling their grievances with employers through private arbitration as opposed to the courts. The initiative died in committee.
Sexual Intimidation at IHOP
The plaintiffs, who were waitresses, allege that the male cooks would corner them in the cooler when they needed to go in and get stock. The complaint further alleges that the cooks would touch them inappropriately. The lawsuit names two of the cooks, Ernesto “Garrison” Xivir and Humberto Cudeno as well as two managers Judy Lepping and Nader Awwad. The plaintiffs say that their complaints to managers and to corporate headquarters went unanswered.
Most of the complaint was aimed at the conduct of Garrison, who repeatedly followed waitresses into the cooler. According to the complaint, the waitresses began going into the cooler in pairs to avoid his unwanted advances.
When one of the servers brought this to the attention of the manager, Judy Lepping, she told her to “suck it up” and indicated that if she allowed Garrison to grab her in a sexual way, that he would prepare the orders well and she would get tipped better.
Another woman alleges that she was fired after reporting an incident to corporate headquarters. According to that woman’s supervisor, Lepping directed her to falsely report that she had attendance issues to justify the firing. The woman refused. She was then demoted.
#MeToo Raises Awareness of Workplace Sexual Harassment
A survey released in February of 2018 reported that 81% of women reported experiencing sexual harassment at one point in their lives. 51% of women reported unwanted sexual touching. 27% reported being sexually assaulted.
It is clear that the #MeToo movement has had a major influence on raising awareness of the problem, but awareness of the problem is simply not enough. The workers at IHOP reported a culture of sexual misconduct and intimidation and not only had their complaints ignored but were retaliated against by their supervisors for reporting them.
While this remains illegal under both Federal and Missouri Law, the case details how easy it is for women to be put into a position where they feel like they are choosing between their ability to support themselves and their family, and their very dignity. Many of the women reported being afraid to leave the job and afraid to make waves about the incident. Those who did were fired.
Have You Been the Victim of Workplace Sexual Harassment?
If so, let HKM Employment Law of Kansas City take your case. We have handled numerous such cases and secured favorable settlements for our clients. Give us a call at 816.607.4691 and we will begin discussing your case immediately.