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Culver’s franchise in Minnesota faces EEOC lawsuit; alleges racism, sexual harassment, disability discrimination

Culver’s of Cottage Grove (Minn.). Photo by Amanda Schenk.

The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) has sued a Minnesota-based franchisee of Culver’s in two federal lawsuits, alleging discrimination against employees based on race, sex and disability.

The suits allege that R & G Endeavors, doing business as Culver’s Restaurants of Cottage Grove (Minnesota), fostered an environment where racial discrimination and sexual harassment, as well as pay discrimination against a person with a disability, went unchecked for at least five years.

One lawsuit alleges that multiple workers endured harassment at a Culver’s restaurant in the Minneapolis suburb of Cottage Grove, Minnesota. In one instance, managers and other employees singled out a gay and African American employee for racial and homophobic insults that included the n-word and f-word, discussed his sex life, and referred to him as the restaurant’s “adopted African child.” Additionally, the suit alleges that girls as young as 14 endured inappropriate touching as well as suggestive language and propositions.

In a separate lawsuit invoking the Americans With Disabilities Act, the EEOC alleges that the company subjected another employee, who has a disability, to bullying and disability-related slurs, while paying him less than his co-workers without disabilities. 

The suit alleges that employees reported these conditions to management, but the company failed to reasonably address the harassment or discipline those responsible. The intolerable working conditions forced one employee to quit, the EEOC alleged.

The EEOC wrote in the filing documents that it has been working with the company for almost a year to remedy the situation, but the company has not adequately improved conditions. The lawsuit seeks monetary relief for the affected employees, and an order requiring the company to take steps to stop and prevent future workplace harassment and pay disparities.

“These forms of discriminatory harassment in the workplace are never acceptable,” Greg Gochanour, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago District Office, said in a statement. “All employees – regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation or disability – should enjoy an equal right to safety, dignity, and respect in their place of work, and the EEOC will vigorously enforce that right, through litigation if necessary.”

An attorney for the company did not respond to a message left by Blueprint365, but told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that she couldn’t comment on the lawsuit as she had not reviewed the documents.

Culver’s Restaurants is headquartered in Sauk City, Wisconsin and is not a party to either lawsuit.