Sexual Harassment Costs Honolulu Employers $200,000+

Sexual Harassment Costs Honolulu Employers $200,000+

Sexual harassment, including hugging of employees, cost a Honolulu restaurant a quarter of a million dollars in 2023. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that Mexico Restaurant, a Kalihi-based restaurant specializing in Mexican cuisine, had agreed to pay $227,500 to settle a sexual and racial harassment and retaliation lawsuit.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, female servers were subjected to repeated sexual touching and comments by a co-worker. After complaining to management about the sexual conduct and comments, at least one female server experienced retaliatory harassment and was forced to quit. Despite the complaints, the employer did not take any corrective action.

Sexual harassment prevention measures required

 In addition to paying money to the victims, Mexico Restaurant agreed to take effective measures to address and prevent discrimination in the workplace. These measures include designating an external equal opportunity monitor to ensure compliance with the law. The company also agreed to review, revise, implement and distribute companywide policies addressing discrimination and harassment which include a clear explanation of prohibited conduct. The settlement requires the company to put in place mechanisms to take prompt corrective action when complaints are received. The company must adopt an internal complaint process and complaint hotline.

Of course, all these provisions are what every employer should be doing anyway.

Sexual harassment prevent training required

In the Mexico Restaurant case, the company was required to provide training on preventing sexual harassment, racial harassment, and retaliation.

Another case brought by the EEOC in 2019 had a similar result. A Texas construction company doing business in Honolulu agreed to pay $200,000 to settle a sexual harassment complaint brought by the on behalf of a woman employee. The lawsuit alleged that Southland Contracting, Inc., Mole Constructors, Inc. and Southland Mole JV retaliated against her when she complained.

The EEOC required the Texas companies to provide live training for every employee.

If your organization wants to prevent lawsuits like this, maybe you should do live training, too. We can help!

By R. Makana Risser Chai

Makana Risser Chai is a trainer, HR consultant and former Silicon Valley attorney who specializes in teaching courses on creating respectful workplaces by preventing harassment, bullying, disrespect, and unconscious bias.