‘Snitches Get Stitches’ Comment Lands Red Lobster in Hot Water

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By Patrick Dorrian

A male cook at a Red Lobster restaurant in New Mexico repeatedly called a pregnant server a “bitch” and continued harassing her after she complained, a lawsuit in federal court alleges ( Laurich v. Red Lobster Rests., LLC , D.N.M., No. 1:17-cv-00150, complaint filed 2/2/17 ).

Mary Grace Laurich complained about being called “white bitch” and “fat bitch” but a male manager told her he was “running a business, not a day care center,” she alleges in the complaint filed Feb. 2 in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico.

The cook found out after she complained again and told her “snitches get stitches,” she alleges. He also shoved her into a shelf, she says.

Willie Prather later punched Laurich in the face outside of the restaurant, knocking a cell phone out of her hand, because he thought she was calling the police, the complaint says. Laurich actually was calling her boyfriend, according to the complaint.

Prather had “a history of violent and criminal activity,” Laurich alleges.

Red Lobster was negligent in its failure to discover at least part of Prather’s criminal history, which was available on the New Mexico courts website, before hiring him, Laurich says. Moreover, the restaurant wouldn’t commit to firing Prather even following the August 2016 punching incident, and she was fired a short time later, she says.

It is company policy not to comment on pending litigation, Nicole Bott, Red Lobster Seafood Co.'s director of communications and external relations, told Bloomberg BNA in a Feb. 3 e-mail.

Complaint Includes Race, Sex Bias Claims

Laurich, in addition to suing Red Lobster for negligent hiring and supervision under New Mexico law, also brought race and sex discrimination claims against the restaurant under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the New Mexico Human Rights Act.

Prather and the male manager who made the day-care-center remark are both black, according to the complaint.

Laurich alleges that she complained repeatedly about Prather, both verbally and in writing, but Red Lobster managers “did nothing.”

Prather also harassed another female employee around the same time, including by forcefully poking her in the forehead, Laurich alleges. That worker also filed a written complaint that the restaurant failed to act on, she says.

The prevention of sexual and other workplace harassment is an enforcement priority of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The agency Jan. 10 released for public comment a draft of revised enforcement guidance on the issue.

A June 2016 report by a 16-member EEOC select task force on the study of workplace harassment found that workplaces that rely on customer service or client satisfaction, those marked by limited communication between organizational levels, and those that tolerate or encourage alcohol consumption by employees are most at risk for creating an atmosphere in which sexual harassment can flourish. Restaurants are exposed to all three risk factors, the EEOC found.

Bregman & Loman P.C. represent Laurich. No attorney had filed an appearance yet on behalf of Red Lobster.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at pdorrian@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Christopher Opfer at copfer@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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