Señor Frog’s, a popular chain of Mexican-themed restaurants and bars, violated federal law by allowing the rampant sexual harassment of its female employees in Honolulu by high-level officials including the company owner, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit it filed Friday against both Señor Frog’s and Altres, Inc.
Altres, a staffing company in Hawaii, was contracted by Señor Frog's to provide human resources services and oversee the company’s non-management staff at the Señor Frog’s restaurant & bar in Honolulu.
In its lawsuit, the EEOC asserts that a class of at least nine female servers and bartenders were repeatedly bombarded with sexual propositions, explicit sexual remarks, groping, grabbing, and exposure of genital areas by male managers, and even ordered to perform sexual favors for high-level Señor Frog officials.
The widespread sexual harassment was out of control, stemming from Señor Frog’s owner himself, who permitted other Honolulu restaurant managers and supervisors to do the same, according to the EEOC.
Women were also treated differently with respect to being passed over for promotions, obtaining less favorable shifts and earning less than their male counterparts.
The EEOC contends that at least one of the victims was compelled to quit as a result, while others were disciplined or had their hours cut in retaliation for complaining of the harassment and discrimination. As the joint employer, the EEOC claims that Altres is also liable for the hostile work environment endured by the Señor Frog’s staff, many of whom were employed by Altres on paper, according to company records.
Señor Frog’s in Waikiki is no longer open.
The EEOC’s suit seeks all available relief, including lost wages, front pay and compensatory and punitive damages for the class of women. Substantial remedies, including policy changes and staff training, are also being sought by the EEOC in order to prevent and appropriately address future instances of sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation.
"We are troubled by the increase of sexual harassment cases and companies continuing to fail to take this problem seriously," said Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, which includes Hawaii in its jurisdiction.
Timothy Riera, local director for the EEOC’s Honolulu Local Office, added, "Workers have the right to report sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace without suffering negative consequences or retaliation. Where an employer lacks the mechanism to complain or to put a halt to harassment, the EEOC is certainly here to help."
According to the company’s website, Señor Frog’s operates restaurants in 15 tourist destinations in Mexico, the United States and the Caribbean. Altres, Inc. claims to be Hawaii’s largest locally owned staffing company, and provides outsourced human resources support services to businesses throughout Hawaii, employing over 5,000 people.