By Brendan O'Brien
Jan 9 (Reuters) - The largest franchisee of Burger King
restaurants has agreed to a $2.5 million settlement with the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, ending one of the
agency's most extensive sexual harassment cases in its history.
Carrols Restaurant Group Inc said on Tuesday it will pay the
money to 88 former and one current employee, the remaining
parties in the 14-year sexual harassment case.
The company was accused of widespread violation of Title VII
of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
"We unequivocally do not tolerate sexual harassment in our
workplace," Chief Executive Daniel Accordino said in a
statement. The company did not admit wrongdoing, he said.
The EEOC has not announced the settlement and officials
declined to comment on Wednesday.
Settling with the EEOC, Accordino said, was far less costly
than continuing litigation, given the age of the claims and
because hundreds of potential witnesses are scattered across the
country, ill or deceased.
"It has cost the company an enormous amount of money to
defend itself up to this point," said Michael Delikat, an
attorney at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe representing Carrols.
"It would have cost many more millions of dollars in legal
fees to have concluded a potential trial of 89 claims," said
The litigation began in 1998, when a former Carrols worker
in Glen Falls, New York, filed a harassment charge with the
An investigation resulted in the EEOC filing a "pattern or
practice" suit on behalf of 90,000 current and former Carrols
female employees in U.S. District Court for the Northern
District of New York.
Early in the case, the court granted the EEOC permission to
contact all 90,000 female employees.
In 2005, the agency identified 511 women it believed had
been sexually harassed. The court then dismissed the class
action component of the case, leaving attorneys to litigate 511
During the next five years, the number of individual claims
decreased from 511 to 89 as a result of motions for summary
judgments and requests for dismissals by the attorneys for
In addition to the monetary settlement, Carrols agreed to
enhance its anti-harassment policies, procedures and training
programs and to report the results to the EEOC during a two-year
Carrols Restaurant Group is a franchisee of 572 Burger King
restaurants around the globe.
For Carrols: Mike Delikat and John Giansello of Orrick,
Herrington & Sutcliffe and Jeffrey Mayer of Freeborn and Peters.
For the EEOC: Gillian Thomas, Sunu Chandy, Elizabeth
Grossman, and Robert Rose, EEOC.
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