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One “Butt Grab” Equals One Million Dollar Lawsuit

Phil Romano, founder of Macaroni Grill and Fuddruckers, has been accused of sexually harassing an assistant manager at a restaurant that he owns in Dallas, Texas. The sexual harassment is based on one incident; an incident caught on tape.

According to the assistant manager, Ichel Cook, Mr. Romano "walks into the market, turns his hand like this, grabs me, laughs, takes a few more steps, stops, turns around and stares at me for at least five seconds." He purportedly grabbed her rear end. The incident occurred during a manager's meeting. When Ms. Cook realized who had grabbed her, she felt uncomfortable saying anything. However, later on that day she approached him. His response was that women are "too sensitive" and that he just thought of her as "one of the guys and didnt think that this would upset" her. Ms. Cook has direct evidence of the incident via the videotape; something that few people alleging sexual harassment have.

Under Title VII, sexual harassment can be established for conduct that is frequent or severe enough to create a hostile or offensive work environment. One incident has previously been held to be sufficient. It is unknown whether the incident in this case will be enough but it is a good cautionary tale. Mr. Romano has denied the accusations.