IHOP restaurant franchises in Glen Carbon and Alton will pay nearly $1 million in compensatory damages to settle a “systemic sexual harassment” lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission.
The federal agency sued on behalf of several female employees, some of whom were teens at the time of their employment. An EEOC news release said the employees had suffered “offensive sexual comment, groping, physical threats, and, in one instance, attempted forced oral sex with a management employee.” The two franchises will pay a combined $975,000 to the workers.
A phone message left Thursday with IHOP’s corporate office was not immediately returned. A person who answered the phone at the Glen Carbon location referred a reporter to corporate headquarters. A call to the Alton location went unanswered.
A 26-year-old woman who worked as a server at the IHOP in Glen Carbon was interviewed by the News-Democrat in March.
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“They would follow us into the walk-in (cooler) when we went in there to get some produce to stock and they would pin us against the wall and touch us,” she said. “It was really scary.”
The original complaint said a server who had contacted IHOP corporate headquarters to complain was fired. The suit originally sought relief for more than 11 female employees at the Glen Carbon IHOP and one male employee at the Alton IHOP.
The lawsuit was filed in September; 16 workers will receive compensatory damages. The two IHOP restaurants also agreed to implement tougher policies against sexual harassment and make procedures for complaints.