EEOC accuses Cottage Grove Culver’s franchisee of allowing extensive workplace harassment

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission this week sued the owner of a Cottage Grove Culver’s fast food restaurant, alleging the company allowed its employees to harass their coworkers with racial and homophobic slurs, unwanted sexual advances and other abusive behavior.

In a pair of lawsuits filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court, the EEOC accused R&G Endeavors of failing to address reports by several employees that they were mistreated by their coworkers at its Culver’s on Hardwood Avenue in Cottage Grove. One of the suits also alleges the company paid disabled employees less than their coworkers.

The EEOC is seeking a court order forcing the company to prevent future violations of labor law, along with monetary compensation for the affected employees.

Diane Smason, acting district director of the EEOC’s Chicago district, said in a news release that employers are required by law “to take prompt and effective action to stop harassment on the job.”

“Employers cannot simply ignore repeated reports of harassment, allowing this abusive conduct to continue and spread,” she said.

An attorney for R&G Endeavors could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

In its civil complaints, the EEOC alleges one employee quit his job in 2020 after being repeatedly subjected to racist and homophobic taunts, including by a manager who referred to him as the restaurants “adopted African child.”

The complaints also allege that female employees as young as 14 were sexually harassed, propositioned and subjected to inappropriate touching by their coworkers.

Other employees reported being mocked and paid less than their coworkers because of their disabilities, according to the complaints.

Before filing its lawsuits, the EEOC attempted to work with the company to “eliminate the discriminatory practices and provide appropriate relief” to affected employees, but the company failed to comply, the complaints said.

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