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February 1, 10

NEWS / Division on Civil Rights Obtains $20,000 Settlement on Behalf of Alleged Victim of Workplace Harassm


TRENTON Ė Acting Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Division on Civil Rights Director Chinh Q. Le announced today that a South Jersey restaurant and its owner have paid a former employee $20,000 to resolve allegations the owner sexually harassed the woman and later fired her for reporting it.

Owner Angelo Giannkaris and his restaurant, Peterís Diner, located in Williamstown, Gloucester County, also have paid the Division on Civil Rights $7,500 as part of the settlement.

The settlement resolves an employment discrimination complaint brought jointly by the Division and former Peterís Diner waitress Lynnann Zuest, of Williamstown, in March 2005. Zuest was fired after approaching a fellow waitress and reporting that Giannkaris had inappropriately touched her by placing his hands on her hips.

During a preliminary Division on Civil Rights investigation, the owner blamed poor job performance -- including Zuest having dropped trays and food plates Ė for Zuestís dismissal. However, in a Finding of Probable Cause issued against Giannkaris and Peterís Diner in 2008, the Division found that available information did not support the alleged reasons for Zuestís firing. The Division instead found evidence to support Zuestís allegations, and also determined that Peterís had no policy in place regarding sexual harassment or the filing of workplace harassment complaints.

The Zuest case represents the second harassment-related settlement payout made by Peterís Diner and owner Giannkaris. Previously, the Respondents paid another former waitress $5,000 to resolve a Division complaint alleging inappropriate touching.

ďThese cases should serve as a reminder to employers throughout our state that they have a duty under the law to ensure a harassment-free workplace, and that their employees have a right to report harassing conduct without fear of reprisals,Ē said Acting Attorney General Dow.

ďEvery employee deserves to be treated with dignity, fairness and respect,Ē said Division on Civil Rights Director Le. ďIt is the right thing to do, and it is the law. We are committed to ensuring that employers keep harassment and other forms of unlawful discrimination out of the workplace and, where appropriate, we will take action against employers who fail to do so.Ē

In the prior case settled by Peterís Diner and Giannkaris, the Respondents paid $5,000 to former Peteís waitress Savannah Berryman, of Franklin Township, Gloucester County, to resolve similar allegations of workplace harassment including inappropriate touching. That settlement was reached in July 2009.

Investigation of both the Zuest and Berryman matters was conducted by Division on Civil Rights Investigator Alexander Garcon of the Divisionís Camden office. Deputy Attorney General Beverly Lapsley handled the Zuest and Berryman settlements on behalf of the State.

http://www.nj.gov/oag/newsreleases10/pr20100201a.html

 




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