The restaurant chain Cheesecake Factory will pay $345,000 to six male employees who said they were sexually harassed and assaulted by other male employees at the restaurant at Chandler Fashion Center.
The payment settles a lawsuit filed in 2008 by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which claimed that Cheesecake Factory knew about and tolerated repeated sexual assaults against the men by a group of other men who worked in the kitchen.
Sidney Greathouse, vice president of legal services for California-based Cheesecake Factory Inc., denied the allegations.
The consent decree assigns no liability but allows the company to avoid further expense of litigation, he said in a statement.
Four men filed charges with the EEOC: Bryce Fitzpatrick, Albert Miller, Jesse DeJong and Michael Wilson. Two others, John Andrews and Julio Muñoz, joined the class action.
The EEOC said the evidence overwhelmingly showed that the abusers touched the victims inappropriately, made sexually charged remarks and forced the victims into incidents of simulated rape. Managers also witnessed employees dragging the men kicking and screaming into a refrigerated room, the EEOC said.
Victims complained to managers, who never stopped the abusive behavior, the agency said.
One accuser called Chandler police, who investigated but never filed charges.
The decree calls for the Cheesecake Factory to train its employees about sexual harassment. It also is required to assign an ombudsman to field and address complaints about sexual harassment. If the company fails to take these actions, the court could levy sanctions.