A recent Vox report reveals that more than 60 women have filed sexual harassment complaints against IHOP and Applebee’s—both franchised and operated by DineEquity—since 2010. Among them is a 16-year-old girl who worked as a waitress at an IHOP location in St. Louis who says her boss allegedly threatened to “get violent” if she refused to have sex with him. Prior to the incident, his unwanted attention (he is said to have complimented her appearance on multiple occasions) made her so uncomfortable that she was afraid to go to work.
The teen girl’s claims were backed by ten of her co-workers who all shared details regarding similar incidents with cooks at the restaurant. In a lawsuit filed by the group in September 2017, the women accused the restaurant’s supervisors of ignoring and sometimes allowing the reported behavior.
It’s worth noting that their complaints only make up a fraction of the 7,000 sexual harassment complaints reviewed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2017, adding to the growing number of sexual harassment incidents that remain pervasive in the restaurant and hotel industry. An analysis from the Center for American Progress also shows that hotel and restaurant workers filed at least 5,000 sexual harassment complaints with the EEOC from 2005 to 2015, surpassing the number of incidents reported in any other industry.
As reported in the case of the millionaire who went virtually unpunished for assaulting a hotel worker at Washington D.C.’s Mayflower Hotel in January 2017, surveys show eight out of ten hotel workers have been harassed, and 68 percent of sexual assaults go unreported. Such has been the case for those working at IHOP and Applebee’s, who are often living check-to-check.
Laura Palumbo, communications director for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, further explained to Vox: “It may be suggested that they are very replaceable; that because of their status in the workplace, no one will care about their claim or their claim won’t make a difference.” Because of this, most sexual harassment victims in the hotel and restaurant industry, as sexual harassment victims choose to do for varying reasons, remain silent.
Currently, there are two federal lawsuits pending against IHOP locations in New York, Illinois, and Nevada. There are also pending lawsuits against Applebee’s locations in South Carolina and New York, with suits in North Dakota and Florida being settled. As of 2016, there were over 1,600 IHOP locations, while there are close to 1,900 Applebee’s restaurants as of 2015.
Read more of Vox’s findings here.