Fertitta's Landry's chain is sued by EEOC for allegedly picking on an Iranian employee

The suit alleges that the woman was routinely mocked for her appearance and accent, and that the company failed to stop it when the woman complained.
A Landry's Seafood House.| Photo: Shutterstock

Tilman Fertitta’s Landry’s Seafood House chain has been sued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for allegedly discriminating against an Iranian employee and then seeking retribution against her when she complained to authorities.

The suit accuses Landry’s managers and supervisors of routinely and openly mocking the woman, who worked at a Landry’s restaurant in Englewood, Colo. Their ridicule was directed at her appearance and accent, the anti-discrimination agency said.

According to the suit, Landry’s human resources department failed to take action when the employee complained and ultimately terminated her employment.

“Workers, regardless of their country of origin, should be treated equally and fairly in the workplace,” Amy Burkholder, director of the EEOC’s Denver field office, said in a statement. “An employer must take seriously any allegations that an employee is being treated differently due to their nationality, including harassment about their accent or other cultural differences.”

The action seeks undisclosed compensation for what the woman lost in wages, as well as penalties intended to offset the mental anguish she allegedly suffered.

It also asks that Landry’s revise its employment policies and practices to eradicate discrimination against any employee. That effort would include retraining managers, supervisors and all non-supervisory personal, according to EEOC. It was not clear if that reorientation would apply just to the Landry’s Seafood House chain or to all of Landry’s Inc., which operates more than 600 restaurants worldwide. The concepts range from Del Frisco’s to Rainforest Cafe.

"We are familiar with the alleged claims and refused to be pressured by the EEOC’S settlement demands," Steve Scheinthal, Landry's EVP and general counsel, said in a statement given to Restaurant Business. "We don’t have any comments about the merits of this matter, however, there are two sides to every case and will be happy to litigate this lawsuit in front of an impartial trier of fact."

The company was founded by Fertitta, one of America’s richest individuals, in 1980. His startup operation was the Landry’s seafood brand.

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