The owners of an Applebee’s franchise restaurant in Plant City, Florida must pay $100,000 to settle claims that it allowed racist and homophobic discrimination against a gay Black employee.
Shortly after Jebriel Teague, a gay Black man, began working as a line cook for the Applebee’s franchise in March 2019, two of his co-workers — Cody Curby and Bobby Hogge — made inappropriate jokes about his sexual orientation, directing comments to him about dildos and anal beads on a near daily basis, and frequently using the n-word as well as slurs like “f**,” “f****t,” and “bi**h,” the complaint states.
Hogge also wore a Confederate flag hat all the time at work, a flag which has since been banned from all U.S. military installations as an emblem of white supremacy.
When Teague told his supervisors about his co-workers’ behavior, his supervisors told him that the men were just joking and that he should ignore it. The harassment continued. Even though Teague’s manager said he would investigate the harassment, no notes on the investigation exist.
When Teague continued to complain about his mistreatment, nearly half of his hours were cut. The lack of hours and continued mistreatment effectively forced him to quit in June 2019, barely three months after he was first employed.
Teague filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC determined that the business’ practices violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.
The EEOC then contacted Neighborhood Restaurant Partners Florida, LLC (NRP), the company that owns the franchise, to correct the discriminatory practices and provide relief to Teague. Eventually, the EEOC sued NRP on Teague’s behalf, filing a suit in Federal District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
In addition to paying $100,000, NRP must also provide the EEOC with reports of what it has done to resolve any reports of harassment.
Evangeline Hawthorne, the EEOC’s Tampa field office director, said that while the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia was a huge step forward — ruling that employees can’t be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation of gender identity because of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act — LGBTQ employees still face discrimination in the workplace.
“No employee should have to endure homophobic and racist harassment by co-workers,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Robert E. Weisberg. “Failing to take corrective action to correct a work environment permeated with racial and homophobic slurs, and, even worse, punishing an employee for reporting harassment, will not be tolerated.”