Eatzi employee Ichel Cook filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Dallas restaurateur in 2016, and the matter has finally been resolved. Long before the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement gained popularity, Cook accused restaurateur Phil Romano of “inappropriately grabbing her buttocks with a grin on his face” during a manager’s meeting. According to the report, Romano told her “I thought you were just one of the guys” during the episode. The incident was captured on tape thanks to security cameras throughout the restaurant, which only strengthened Cook’s case.
Cook moved forward with a lawsuit in pursuit of $1 million in damages. Court documents indicate that Cook was retaliated against after reporting the incident to human resources. While details are scarce, on Thursday it was announced that the case had been resolved and put to rest. There has been no comment from Romano at this time, but attorneys involved in the case say the matter has been settled out of court.
Since disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein has been the center of sexual harassment allegations, numerous lawsuits have been filed across a wide range of industries, including the restaurant world. Celebrity chefs such as John Besh and Mario Batali have been amongst the most recognized names to face sexual harassment allegations over the last several months.
What Is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is one of the most common types of sex discrimination and violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964. By definition, sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors, and any other act that is sexual in nature. Sexual harassment can take place in a wide range of scenarios in the workplace and can involve two coworkers, an employee and employer, and any other combination of workers. In the event the behavior affects a person’s employment, interferes with their work performance, or creates a hostile or offensive work environment, the victim may be able to pursue a sexual harassment lawsuit. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), at least 25 percent of women experience sexual harassment in the workplace at one point or another. That equates to one in four women. An additional study by the EEOC found that as many as 85 percent of women have experienced some level of sexual harassment in the workplace. Either number is disturbing and shows that we cannot ignore the fact that this takes place far too regularly.
Steps to Take If You’ve Been a Victim of Sexual Harassment
Thanks in large part to both #MeToo and #TimesUp, sexual harassment in the workplace is one of the most discussed topics right now. It is important to note that sexual harassment is not new – it has been taking place for as long as the workforce existed. However, the brave victims of sexual harassment are now coming forward and speaking out against their abusers. This is creating an interesting, empowering situation for those who have been victimized by a person in a position of power. For this reason, it is important you know what to do following a sexual harassment incident in the workplace. Here are a few things to keep in mind, should you find yourself the victim of sexual harassment:
- Report the incident to human resources – As we saw with the Ichel Cook case, reporting a sexual harassment incident to HR doesn’t always turn out like you may have hoped. However, it is important to do this, regardless of the outcome. Showing that you followed proper protocol following the offensive conduct may help your case, should you decide to pursue a lawsuit. If the HR department does not resolve the issue, it may be time to contact a sexual harassment lawyer.
- Follow your employer’s written protocol for handling harassment claims – Make sure you do your research and determine if your employer has a set procedure for handling sexual harassment claims in place. If so, it is important for you to follow the outlined steps. There may be a time limit in place to file your claim, or a designated employee that the case should be reported to.
- Contact an attorney – Consulting an experienced sexual harassment attorney will be important following a sexual harassment claim, regardless of how high profile the case is. Your attorney will advise you on how to proceed, what documents must be filed, and what your rights are.
If you find yourself the victim of a sexual harassment incident, please contact Shamieh Law today. We offer free consultations and are here to discuss your case with and help you seek retribution for any damages.