An IHOP employee is accused of sexually harassing female employees, including two teenage waitresses in Maryland, according to an EEOC lawsuit. The franchisee who operates the restaurant settled the lawsuit.


An IHOP manager told a teenage waitress she could only take the day off to attend her sister’s graduation if she had sex with him — so she refused and was immediately fired, according to a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The CEO’s history of sexually harassing female employees has become “well known,” including how he “punished” those who rejected his advances at an IHOP in Frederick, Maryland, court documents say. The EEOC lawsuit was filed on behalf of two female teenage workers and others.

Now the franchisee that operates IHOP, Koerner Management Group, Inc., is paying $125,000 to settle with a federal agency sexual harassment lawsuit, the EEOC announced in a Sept. 22 news release. It comes after the company, which operates IHOP restaurants throughout Maryland and neighboring Virginia, failed to prevent abuse by a manager, the EEOC said.

“Sexual harassment is unfortunately still prevalent in the restaurant industry,” Philadelphia EEOC Director Jamie R. Williamson said in a statement. “It is very important to remind victims that sexual harassment is against the law, that they should not tolerate it at work and that they are protected if they complain.”

The male IHOP employee was still the general manager in Frederick, “the highest-level management position,” when the EEOC filed its complaint in federal court, according to the agency.

However, he is no longer working there as of Sept. 23, attorney representing KMG franchisee Nicky Nesbitt confirmed to McClatchy News.

“KMG denies the sexual harassment allegations made by two employees brought by the EEOC,” Nesbitt said. “Nevertheless, to avoid the expense and business disruption of lengthy litigation, KMG has worked closely with the EEOC to resolve the matter.”


The case dates back to 2016, when the 17-year-old started working at IHOP as a hostess before she was soon promoted to a waitress job, the complaint said.

That’s when the manager, who was her supervisor, began making “vulgar sexual comments” to her and touching her, the EEOC says.

The final straw came for the waitress after she submitted a resignation request before her sister’s graduation “long time ago,” according to the complaint.

“In response, (her supervisor) made sexual comments about (her) appearance and attire, told her that if she really wanted to get the day off, she would have to do something for him and that he would comply with (her) request, only when she had sex with him and continue to deny the request when she did not,” the complaint states.

According to the EEOC, the waitress was “forced to resign,” similar to another waitress who was hired at IHOP in 2017 at the age of 17.

A second waitress named in the complaint was also sexually harassed by the manager, including demeaning and degrading comments and questions, the complaint said.

In one incident, a manager tried to unbutton a waitress’ shirt in what was believed to be no surveillance cameras, “only stopping when (she) threatened to scream,” according to the complaint.

She was subsequently transferred from the morning shift to the evening shift, resulting in the waitress tipping less than before, the complaint states. When the waitress asked to come back for the morning shift, the manager said only if she had sex with him.

When she refused, the manager “said he had to keep her ‘under punishment’ by keeping her on the evening and night shifts,” the complaint states.

That waitress was subjected to further harassment, including the manager exposing himself to her and showing her a pornographic video of himself and two other women, according to the EEOC.

Eventually, she quit her job at IHOP because the manager’s actions became “intolerable,” the complaint says.

According to the EEOC, several other female IHOP employees were sexually harassed by a supervisor. Those who obeyed his demands were spared his “punishment” and received “leniency,” the complaint said.

“The punishment or preferential treatment involved matters such as compensation, scheduling, shifts, desk assignments and job duties, enforcement and discipline, termination/constructive dismissal, and other employment actions,” the complaint said.

Because KMG knew the manager was harassing its employees and failed to take action, the EEOC alleges it violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits a number of practices, including discrimination based on sex.

“We applaud the women in this case for their bravery in coming forward,” Williamson said.

As part of the settlement, the KMG franchisee must also implement an updated anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy and reporting procedures at its company, according to the release. In addition, any future complaints should be handled by a third-party employment law professional.

“KMG takes its anti-harassment obligations seriously and is pleased to move forward with EEOC approval of its training program, policy materials and complaint handling,” Nesbitt told McClatchy News.

Frederick is about 50 miles west of Baltimore.

Julia Marnin is a McClatchy National Real-Time reporter covering the Southeast and Northeast while based in New York. She is a graduate of The College of New Jersey and joined McClatchy in 2021. She has previously written for Newsweek, Modern Luxury, Gannett and others.

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