EEOC v. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc.

No. 04C 5273 (N.D. Il. March 13, 2006)

# In its Title VII complaint, the Chicago District Office alleged that defendant, the owner and operator of nearly 400 Cracker Barrel restaurant/gift stores throughout the U.S., subjected employees in three Illinois stores (in Matteson, Bloomington, and Mattoon) to sex and race discrimination and retaliation, and that the discrimination and retaliation caused the constructive discharge of some employees. Defendant subjected female employees to a hostile work environment through offensive sexual comments and touching by managers and coworkers; black employees to a hostile work environment through the use of racially derogatory language, and to adverse terms and conditions of employment such as requiring them to wait on customers that white employees refused to serve and to work in the smoking section; and a white employee to racially offensive language because of her association with a black employee. Employees were subjected to adverse terms and conditions of employment for complaining about the discriminatory conduct. Management officials at the three Illinois stores failed to take effective corrective action to stop the sex- and race-based harassment and other discrimination. The company took no action in response to complaints that a number of the claimants called in to the company's complaint hotline. Under the 2-year consent decree resolving this case, defendant will pay $2 million into a Settlement Fund to be used to make payments of compensatory damages to individuals identified as class members. The decree states that subject to court approval EEOC apportioned the Settlement Fund among class members in accordance with criteria set out in the decree. Fifty-one individuals are eligible to receive checks from the Settlement Fund, in amounts ranging from $7,500 to $300,000. Nine months after the decree's entry, defendant will donate an amount equal to any undistributed payments and/or accrued interest remaining in the account to a nonprofit organization, jointly selected by the EEOC and defendant, that benefits women's and/or minority workplace interests in one or more of the communities in which the stores covered by the decree are located. The decree enjoins defendant at the three stores named in the complaint from discriminating against employees based on sex or race, subjecting employees to a racially or sexually harassing work environment, or retaliating against anyone under Title VII. Defendant must provide annual training, approved by EEOC, to managers on sexual and racial discrimination, including harassment and retaliation issues, and to all employees on workplace harassment.




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