Perkins settles harassment suit for $127,000

A cook was first sexually harassed, and then was subjected to retaliation by her employer: Perkins Restaurant. She is slated to receive $127,000 from the restaurant. JULIE FORSTER for Pioneer Press reports:

A former Perkins cook who says she was sexually harassed and then fired for complaining will receive $127,000 in a settlement with the restaurant.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the Midway Perkins Restaurant and Bakery in St. Paul after the cook claimed she was fired for retaliation after she complained that her supervisor made sexual comments to her, touched her inappropriately and appeared uninvited at the woman’s home.

The woman, Maria Torres, was fired within one week of complaining to the regional manager about the sexual harassment. The EEOC said that after Torres complained, the company investigated her immigration status rather than the sexual harassment.

A consent decree, filed Thursday, requires Perkins to: # train existing and new employees; # provide a Spanish-language interpreter if an employee requests one; # post the lawsuit and policies prohibiting sexual harassment and retaliation in select restaurants; # post a hot line for employees to report any violations; # and require that Perkins report any complaints of sexual harassment or retaliation to the EEOC for monitoring. The consent decree is in affect for two years. “Whatever it takes, the EEOC is going to vigorously pursue issues of workplace discrimination until they are equitably resolved – until justice is served,” said Deborah Powers, an EEOC attorney who led the case.

The attorney representing Perkins referred calls to a Perkins spokeswoman, who did not return a call. Perkins’ parent company is based in Memphis, Tenn.

In May, a federal court judge cleared the sexual harassment and retaliation claims to go to trial, which was set for Aug. 20. In a separate decision last year, the judge noted that if the employee was fired because of a good-faith belief that she was unable to work legally, it wouldn’t matter whether she was undocumented, nor would that be relevant to her sexual-harassment claim.

Julie Forster can be reached at [email protected] or 651-228-5189.