Tony’s Restaurant, a venerable eatery in Alton, Ill., outside St. Louis, has agreed to settle sexual harassment charges brought by the EEOC on behalf of three teenage girls who claimed they were victimized by a member of the family that has owned the restaurant for more than 50 years.
According to the EEOC complaint, Michael Ventimiglia, vice president of the family business, inappropriately touched the girls and made unwelcome sexual advances and comments. The settlement calls for the company to pay them $75,000.
Additionally, Tony’s will provide sexual harassment training, develop a clear sexual harassment policy and not rehire Ventimiglia, who recently left the company.
Tony’s attorneys said the company settled to avoid protracted litigation, and denied any wrongdoing.
Note: This case shows how an employer must sometimes make tough decisions—and how HR professionals sometimes need the courage to confront top. Employers have an obligation to stop harassment, even if it’s perpetrated by key people. Courts won’t care who the harasser is related to. Sometimes, the best move may be to involve your attorney. He or she may be able to get key individuals to understand the consequences of their behavior.