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State settles claims against Coughlin

RUTLAND Attorney General William Sorrell announced last week that his office has settled discrimination charges that Coughlin, Inc., operator of McDonalds Restaurants in Rutland, violated Vermonts Fair Employment Practices Act. The charges stem from two complaints filed with the Vermont Civil Rights Unit at the Attorney Generals Office. Each complaint alleged that a female employee was subjected to sexually harassing conduct by a supervisor. When the conduct was reported by a manager working with the employee, the employee and the manager supporting the employee were allegedly retaliated against or fired for complaining about the conduct and the retaliation. I am pleased that Coughlin, Inc. responded to these serious charges by working to resolve the matters and educate its employees and managers, said Sorrell. In restaurants, sexual harassment and retaliation for reporting sexual harassment can become a serious problem. Our office is committed to working to end such unlawful conduct. The settlement is contained in an assurance of discontinuance recently filed in the Washington Superior Court in Montpelier. In the settlement, Coughlin, Inc. agreed to revise its policies and procedures regarding filing, investigating and responding to complaints of sexual harassment and retaliation, and to create a video and/or on-line training program for all employees and managers. Coughlin, Inc. will develop an accountability system to ensure training occurs during an employees first days of employment and upon promotion to manager. Coughlin, Inc. will hire an independent monitor to review the records and actions of the Rutland McDonald restaurants a minimum of four times per year for three years. The monitor will ensure compliance with posting of sexual harassment policies and complaint information as required by law; compliance with the education training program and review each of the Rutland facilties workplace environment. In lieu of fines, Coughlin, Inc. has agreed to run Youth at Work advertisements on a Rutland bus route and contribute up to $5,000 to develop and sponsor with the civil rights unit, two Youth at Work/Rights and Responsibilities events in Rutland and another town in Vermont where Coughlin, Inc. operates restaurants. In addition, Coughlin will pay the attorney general $15,000 towards its investigative costs. The individual complainants also recently settled their claims with Coughlin, Inc.

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