The Chicago Employment Law Blog

EEOC Claims Leona's Pizza Breached Sexual Harassment Settlement

Most cases settle. More than 90 percent of criminal cases reach plea bargains in most states. Parties in civil cases calculate the risk of loss and additional legal fees from trial and settle the vast majority of the time. When the EEOC investigates claims, businesses usually quickly agree to change their policies immediately in order to avoid the legal expense and publicity.

"Legendary" Leona's Pizza agreed in July to do just that after allegations of sexual harassment against female employees in one of their locations were investigated by the EEOC. As part of the agreement, Leona's was supposed to fork over $75,000 to the victims, train its employees, revise its non-discrimination policy, post a notice of the settlement, and report its compliance to the EEOC.

Since then, it has reportedly done absolutely nothing.

When companies violate their conciliation agreement (the EEOC's fancy term for a settlement), the EEOC is empowered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to sue to enforce the agreement. Based on the EEOC's statements, it seems Leona's is not just ignoring the agreement, they seem to be trying to walk away from it.

According to Crain's Chicago Business, under the terms of the agreement, Leona's was supposed to pay one victim $40,000 and the rest of the affected employees $35,000, within ten days of the agreement. The claims date back to 2008 and were all related to a single branch of the restaurant.

"We negotiated with Leona's in good faith to resolve the sexual misconduct allegations without forcing the company into court," John Rowe, the EEOC's district director in Chicago stated. "Now that the company is attempting to walk away from a deal it freely made, we have no choice except to take it to court."

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