An employee at a Sonny's BBQ restaurant in Charlotte claims she was fired for reporting sexual harassment in the workplace, reports the city's CBS affiliate. Lauren Jones told WBTV her manager "came up behind her and grabbed her butt" one night, and she was terminated following a meeting with an HR rep, the restaurant's general manager, and franchisee.
"They started off saying how important it was that they got to the bottom of this," Jones said. "They at first wanted me to tell my side of the story, but when I tried to, I got cut off by the owner. He wouldn't even let me get what happened in."
Jones told WBTV she didn't want to quit her job and she wasn't planning to file a lawsuit, but the franchisee told her, "We don't want you to quit, we're terminating you right now." The former employee said her claim was dismissed because she had been working at Sonny's for less than a month, while the manager in question has been with the restaurant for 15 years. Jones has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is her first step toward taking legal action against the restaurant and its franchisee.
Sonny's has not responded to an Eater request for comment. The president of the franchise company told WBTV, "It is unfortunate that a person who was employed at one of our restaurants for less than a month has decided to take her grievances to the news media. Sonny's will not respond to personnel matters through the news media."
Sexual harassment is a rampant problem in the dining industry. A 2014 study found 75 percent of female restaurant employees are harassed by coworkers on a monthly basis.