An Applebee’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill in Hawthorne has been sued for allegedly discriminating against a transgender hostess.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission stated that a hostess, identified only as Danielle, was repeatedly harassed by employees who made crude and disparaging remarks to her during the three weeks she worked there in 2015.
The general manager witnessed many of the incidents, according to the lawsuit filed on June 8 in federal court in White Plains, and the waitress formally reported the harassment. No corrective action was taken and Danielle was fired.
Last summer, the EEOC notified Apple-Metro Inc., owner of the Hawthorne restaurant, that there was reason to believe the company had violated the Civil Rights Act.
The EEOC stated it tried to resolve the issue informally but it was unable to reach an acceptable agreement with Apple-Metro.
Zane Tankel, chairman and CEO of Apple-Metro, responded in a voicemail message that he was unaware of the lawsuit.
The company provides an environment, according to core values posted on its website, where employees “treat each other with mutual respect, dignity, honesty and integrity.”
Apple-Metro is based in Harrison and owns 34 Applebee’s in the New York metropolitan area, including Hudson Valley locations in Airmont, Mohegan Lake, New Rochelle, White Plains and Yonkers.
The EEOC claimed that employees at the Hawthorne Applebee’s repeatedly gawked, laughed and pointed at Danielle. They made crude remarks about her genitalia. They refused to use her her legal name, calling her “Daniel,” even when she asked them to stop doing so.
“I don’t know what the big deal is because you’re a tranny,” one employee allegedly told her. “You must be used to this by now.”
The general manager, who is not named, witnessed much of the harassment, the EEOC stated, but did not intervene.
Danielle asked the general manger on three occasions to stop the harassment, but the manager took no corrective action.
The manager allegedly responded one time in a hostile tone, “I don’t know what you expect me to do, but if you think I am going to fire someone about this, I am not.”
Another time, the EEOC stated, the manager smirked and walked away when Danielle objected to the manager’s inaction.
A co-worker reported the situation to an area director who also took no measures to stop the conduct, the lawsuit states.
The company rated Danielle as meeting performance expectations, the EEOC stated. A week later, the area manager and general manager met. At the end of her shift Danielle was fired.
The EEOC wants the court to order Apple-Metro to not engage in discriminatory practices on the basis of sex, to carry out policies and programs to eradicate unlawful practices and to reinstate Danielle and compensate her for emotional pain, humiliation and inconvenience.
The EEOC is charged with combating employment discrimination based on race, religion, disability, sex, age, national origin. The agency began tracking cases concerning lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in 2013 and recently published detailed information for the first time.
LGBT cases accounted for less than 2 percent of the 97,443 discrimination cases handled last year.
In two-thirds of the 1,649 LGBT cases, the EEOC found no reasonable cause to believe discrimination had occurred. Many cases are withdrawn, closed for lack of information or settled.
In only 4 percent of the cases, the federal agency filed a formal conclusion that discrimination did occur.
In 2012, Tankel, Apple-Metro’s co-founder, aired his opposition to the Affordable Care Act, stating that providing health care insurance would cost him millions of dollars. He said Obamacare might cause him to roll back expansion plans or shrink his labor force.
He also has been singled out in news accounts for opening restaurants in low-income neighborhoods in New York City, hiring dozens of former inmates and cultivating a loyal workforce.
It is hard to find people with good attitudes, he told The New York Times in a 2011 interview.
“We can teach you to cook, to make a drink, to be a server, but we can’t teach you how to be nice,” Tankel said.
He hires by personality.
“You see it in a person’s demeanor and mannerisms; it’s in their smile. Is it sincere? It’s the way you shake my hand, look me in the eye, the way you say hello.”