Cracker Barrel Agrees to $2M Settlement

March 13, 2006 ( - A national restaurant chain has agreed to a $2 million out of court settlement of charges that employees at three restaurants were sexually and racially harassed and faced retaliation for reporting the problem.

Under the terms of the agreement between Cracker Barrel restaurants and the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), 51 current or former Cracker Barrel workers from facilities in Bloomington, Mattoon, and Matteson, Illinois will share in the settlement.

Also, Cracker Barrel will be required to train all employees at those stores regarding harassment, to post a notice regarding the outcome of the lawsuit, and to periodically report any complaints it receives about sex or race discrimination to the EEOC, according to a news release. The decree also prohibits Cracker Barrel from retaliating against employees for complaining about illegal harassment or accepting benefits under the decree.

John Rowe, director of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office, led the agency’s administrative investigation of the charges of discrimination underlying the lawsuit, which resulted in a finding that there was “reasonable cause” to believe the company had violated federal law. The EEOC filed the lawsuit on August 11, 2004, after efforts to resolve the matter through its voluntary conciliation process proved futile.

On February 14, 2006, US Magistrate Judge Morton Denlow rejected a series of motions brought by Cracker Barrel, clearing the way for a jury trial in the event a settlement was not reached.

The complaint alleged that as early as 1998, the plaintiffs were subjected to pornographic photographs and cartoons, obscene jokes, sexual propositions, groping, and sexual assaults, according to the Nashville City Paper. In addition, EEOC Trial Attorney June Calhoun said in the news release, “Black employees said that they experienced racially charged language in the workplace, including ‘spear chucking porch monkey,’ ‘you people,’ ‘ghetto’ and the ‘n-word.'”