Sexual-harassment lawsuit at Applebee’s settled

Corina Curry of Rockford Register Star reports that After 5 years of waiting, 14 women will receive settlements ranging from $500 to $25,000.

ROCKFORD — Former Applebee’s employees have settled their sexual-harassment lawsuit against the company for $300,000.

It’s been nearly five years since the first five women took their complaints to a Rockford attorney.

In all, 14 women will receive cash settlements ranging from $500 to $25,000 as part of an agreement filed Tuesday in Rockford’s federal court.

The womens’ complaints ranged from being touched inappropriately to hearing comments of a sexual nature from the restaurant’s manager, who is not named in the 2004 lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of the women.

The company, the Bloomin’ Apple Rockford I LLC, which owns and operates the Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar at 1675 E. Riverside Blvd., denies the allegations, but is agreeing to pay the cash settlements and to several terms regarding discrimination practices, policies and training.

Over the next two years, the company must submit written reports to the EEOC, record all complaints of sexual harassment or retaliation and require all employees to participate in classes to recognize sexual harassment and retaliation, among a laundry list of other requirements as part of the settlement.

“It’s a very standard consent decree, typically entered in cases in like this when the parties chose to settle them,” said Bloomin’ Apple attorney Thomas Wilde. “The company chose to resolve this case in this manner simply to avoid the time and expense of litigation. The company adamantly denies any of the conduct alleged. In this day and age, claims like this are the cost of doing business.”

The company will also pay $65,000 to Rockford Attorney Rene Hernandez, who represented the case’s original plaintiffs — Susan Brenneka, Erin Foster, Christina Javid, Vicki Miner and Tracey Rangel.

“They were subjected to the worst of the harassment,” Hernandez said. “(According to the women,) there was a lot of touching and gratuitous sexually harassing remarks.”

Hernandez said he felt the decree was an equitable resolution to the lawsuit.

“My clients are tired of being involved in litigation,” he said. “They want to get on with their lives. All they wanted was a safe environment to work in.” Corina Curry can be reached at 815-987-1395 or [email protected]