Female employees of the closed eatery accuse the officials of sexual harassment
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 3, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 1:45 a.m. HST, Nov 3, 2012
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Señor Frog's, claiming the restaurant chain's owner, CEO and top-level managers groped, propositioned or demanded sex from subordinate female workers.
The class-action suit, filed Thursday in Honolulu federal court against La Rana Hawaii LLC, alleges widespread sexual harassment at the once-popular Waikiki Mexican bar and restaurant that abruptly closed in August after failed lease negotiations with the Royal Hawaiian Center.
The lawsuit, which names five managers and three top executives, alleges daily groping of at least 10 female servers, hostesses and bartenders, explicit sexual remarks and propositions, demanding sexual intercourse and favors and, in one instance, a male manager exposing his genitals. The female workers, who were also pushed to drink alcohol and have sex with top executives visiting the Waikiki establishment, were in their teens and early 20s, the complaint said.
"When you have harassment like this happening in every stage of management all the way up to the highest levels, we are concerned that there probably are more victims," said Amrita Mallik, a Honolulu senior trial attorney for the EEOC, adding that more victims are coming forward. "This was really rampant sexual harassment."
In addition, female workers who complained to management were subject to reduced hours, less favorable working conditions and, in at least two instances, termination, the lawsuit said.
Señor Frog's had more than 100 employees between June 2007 and December 2008, the period of the alleged harassment, she said. The complaint also includes women employed at the restaurant from January 2009 until its closure this year.
Company officials didn't respond to phone and email messages. Attorneys for Señor Frog's also didn't return calls for comment.
The suit claims that the behavior was condoned by Señor Frog's owner, Alejandro Shoer, and CEO David Krouham, who also participated in the harassment.
Altres Inc., a staffing firm contracted by Señor Frog's to provide human resources and oversee nonmanagement staff, also is listed in the complaint, which states the agency is liable for the hostile work environment.
The suit said that Altres received complaints from four workers and investigated one case in 2008. Altres said its investigation was based on discrimination, not sexual harassment, and that the findings were different from the EEOC claims.
"Because we were issuing paychecks, that's why we got dragged into this thing. We're the employer on paper," said Altres President and CEO Barron Guss. "We did do an investigation and reported it to Señor Frog's. From there we have no other role."
Guss anticipates that his company will be dismissed from the lawsuit.
Altres' role with the restaurant was "administrative employer services, so we will naturally be named (in such lawsuits). It's up to the courts to sort it out, and they always do," he said.
Altres, which handles payroll for about 800 local companies and also offers staffing services, has not done business with Señor Frog's for about four years, after the restaurant did not renew its contract. Altres was listed in the lawsuit as a joint employer from 2007 to 2008.
"We provided administrative services only," Guss told the Star-Advertiser. The employees were "hired, directed, controlled, compensated and sometimes terminated, all by Señor Frog's. The smoke's on the other side of the fence."
The lawsuit, originally filed in December, was earlier dismissed by a federal judge, due in part to a lack of details, according to the EEOC. The commission said it tried twice in 2011 and 2012 to resolve the matter without litigation after the case was brought to its attention in 2008 by an employee.
The Waikiki restaurant, which opened in 2007, was one of more than a dozen operating in Mexico, the U.S. and the Caribbean.
Star-Advertiser staff writer Erika Engle contributed to this report.