- On the Border Mexican Grill and Cantina has agreed to pay $100,000 and provide an apology to settle a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging that an African-American chef at its Holtsville, New York, location was subjected to racial harassment.
- EEOC said the employer failed to act when several employees at the restaurant repeatedly subjected the man to racial slurs.
- As part of the three-year consent decree, On the Border agreed to apologize to the worker via a letter, provide anti-discrimination and harassment training to employees and supervisors at the locations in question and redistribute to employees at the two locations its EEO policies along with a letter from its chief people officer affirming the company's commitment to providing a workplace free of discrimination.
Employers generally become liable for harassment when they know or should have known that it occurred. Experts recommend compliance training, especially for managers and supervisors, as an important aspect of preventing discrimination and harassment claims.
In addition to training, HR can create a reporting procedure for harassment and discrimination that starts with taking all complaints seriously. As part of this effort, HR professionals should be approachable, ensuring that individuals feel comfortable raising their concerns, Jonathan Segal, a partner at Duane Morris, has advised. Segal recommended that responses to such concerns be prepared in advance, suggesting that both HR and front-line managers be ready to say, for example: "Thank you for raising your concerns with me. I want you to know we take them seriously."
After a complaint is made, it should be investigated promptly, experts say, and supervisors and managers should be made aware that retaliation against an applicant or employee who raises a complaint is not allowed.
It's also important to create a workplace culture that values and supports diversity and inclusion, experts say. It's been estimated that toxic workplace cultures have cost U.S. businesses $223 billion over the past five years because of employee turnover, according to a report from the Society for Human Resource Management.