A federal judge has ruled in favor of the EEOC in its sexual harassment lawsuit against Houston restaurant Berryhill Baja Grill and Cantina.
Judge Nancy Atlas ruled that the evidence presented to the court established that the owner of the restaurant’s Montrose Drive location, Philip Wattel, was a bad boss who created a sexually hostile work environment.
Two female bartenders filed sexual harassment claims with the EEOC after allegedly being sexually harassed by Wattel during a five year period.
During his deposition, Wattel admitted to several of the EEOC’s claims and called his restaurant a “grab-assy” place.
According to Judge Atlas, the female employees complained about the harassment to Wattel and to another manager, but Wattel not only failed to try to correct the hostile work environment, but he posted a sign stating that sexual harassment would be “graded.”
The judge stated that the EEOC presented evidence that showed that Wattel’s behavior was both severe and pervasive, and that the only avenues available to employees to complain about sexual harassment were to report it to Wattel, who was himself the harasser, or to other lower-level managers who lacked the authority to do anything other than report the complaints to Wattel.
EEOC attorney Connie Wilhite said, “The conduct by the franchise owner was so egregious in this case that the EEOC took the unusual step of seeking affirmative pre-trial findings that an unchecked hostile work environment existed. The court recognized that the owner’s harassing conduct was both severe and pervasive, and that there were no workplace protections in place to prevent or correct the conduct.”