EEOC SUES DOHERTY ENTERPRISES OVER MANDATORY ARBITRATION AGREEMENT; Restaurant Franchiser (Applebee’s and Panera Bread) Unlawfully Barred New Hires From Filing Discrimination Charges, Federal Agency Charges

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U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission PHONE (305) 808-1740
Miami Tower TTY (305) 808-1742
100 S.E. 2nd Street, Ste. 1500 FAX (305) 808-1835
Miami, FL 33131

September 19, 2014
Robert E. Weisberg
Regional Attorney
(305) 808-1789

Kimberly A. McCoy Cruz
Supervisory Trial Attorney
(305) 808-1790

Kristen Foslid
Trial Attorney
(305) 808-1803

EEOC SUES DOHERTY ENTERPRISES OVER
MANDATORY ARBITRATION AGREEMENT
Restaurant Franchiser Unlawfully Barred New Hires From Filing
Discrimination Charges, Federal Agency Charges
MIAMI – Doherty Enterprises, Inc., a regional company that owns and operates over 140
franchise restaurants, including Applebee’s and Panera Bread locations scattered throughout
Florida, Georgia, New Jersey and New York, unlawfully violated its employees’ right to file
charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the
federal agency charged in a lawsuit filed yesterday.
According to the EEOC, Doherty requires each prospective employee to sign a
mandatory arbitration agreement as a condition of employment. The agreement mandates that all
employment-related claims — which would otherwise allow resort to the EEOC — shall be
submitted to and determined exclusively by binding arbitration. The agreement interferes with
employees’ rights to file discrimination charges, the agency says.

Interfering with these employee rights violates Section 707 of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employer conduct that constitutes a pattern or practice of resistance to the rights protected by Title VII. Section 707 permits the EEOC to seek immediate relief without the same pre-suit administrative process that is required under Section 706 of Title VII, and does not require that the agency’s suit arise from a discrimination charge.
The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida (EEOC v. Doherty Enterprises, Inc., Civil Action No. 9:14-cv-81184-KAM). The suit has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra.
“Employee communication with the EEOC is integral to the agency’s mission of eradicating employment discrimination,” explained EEOC Regional Attorney Robert E. Weisberg. “When an employer forces all complaints about employment discrimination into confidential arbitration, it shields itself from federal oversight of its employment practices. This practice violates the law, and the EEOC will take action to deter further use of these types of overly broad arbitration agreements.”
EEOC District Director Malcolm Medley added, “Preserving access to the legal system is one of the EEOC’s six strategic enforcement priorities adopted in its Strategic Enforcement Plan. When an employer seeks to deter people from exercising their federally protected Title VII rights, the EEOC is uniquely situated to seek an end to such unlawful practices, and to ensure the necessary safeguards are in place to allow employees to participate in the EEOC’s charge filing process.”
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. The Miami District Office’s jurisdiction includes Florida, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.
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