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Lawsuit Against Palm Coast’s Golden Corral Alleges Sexual Harassment of 17-Year-Old Girl

| June 2, 2016

golden corral palm coast

The popular restaurant is on Cypress Edge Drive in Palm Coast. (© FlaglerLive)

A local resident has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Golden Corral, the popular Palm Coast restaurant on Cypress Edge Drive, alleging that two employees there inappropriately and repeatedly touched her and suffered no consequences, forcing her to quit “because the work environment became intolerable.”

The suit was filed in Flagler County Circuit Court at the end of April. In a response last week, Gold Coast Corral, the company under whose banner Golden Corral operates, called many of the allegations “immaterial, impertinent and scandalous” and that the complainant “cannot assert” that the employee she alleges harassed her  did so “within the course and scope of employment.” The lawsuit, Golden Corral states, “contains vague and ambiguous factual allegations” so that the company “cannot be reasonabl[y] required to respond to the claims levied against it.”

The lawsuit and the company’s response raise questions about the extent of a company’s responsibility in protecting its employees from undue hostility and differentiates, in the company’s view, between issues involving peer-employees as opposed to employees and their supervisors or superiors. Golden Corral is arguing that its responsibility in this case was not in play.

It goes so far as to cite the case of a priest sexually abusing children to absolve itself of responsibility: “The court,” Golden Correal states in its response, referring to the precedent, “found that the pastor’s objectives were his own, and that he was not serving the interests of the church during the time he tried to seduce the minor or assaulted her.” In other words, since the employee accused of harassing the girl was doing so of his own volition, the company could not be held responsible, even though the alleged incidents took place on the clock. “Simply because an employee, like [the defendant], was at work or on duty at the time of the alleged act does not mean he was within the course and scope of employment,” Golden Corral argues.

That may sound like a startling assertion to most employees who entrust their workday to an employer. But it also reflects the relatively high bar complainants must clear in sexual harassment cases.

The plaintiff, now 18, began working at Golden Corral as a line attendant in March 2015, when she was 17. She claims Carlos Lnu, a fellow-employee then at that restaurant,  “inappropriately touched the younger females at the waist, hips and on the butt, including [the complainant], who was touched by [Lnu] at least five times but less than 15 times.” Lnu was transferred to a restaurant in Georgia.

Cesar Reyes, who was part of the kitchen staff at the restaurant and was the manager’s brother, “began intentionally touching” the girl, according to the suit. Reyes, the suit states, “has a history of inappropriate comments and touching the female staff. This behavior was so prominent and well known that the other females would say ‘We know how Cesar acts’ and ‘Cesar is at it again.’”

Reyes, the suit claims, would touch the complainant in various parts. The gravest allegation dates from July 15, when he asked the girl to help him with the trash, as was common for female employees to do. Once in the trash room, where there are no surveillance cameras, Reyes, the suit alleges, “grabbed her arm, grabbed her buttocks and forcibly kissed her shoving his tongue down her throat.” Reyes’s fiancée, who worked at the restaurant, was subsequently fired for leaving her station after she heard of the alleged incident.

The girl’s sister, who also worked at the restaurant, let her know that rumors about the alleged encounter in the trash room were spreading at the restaurant, though instances of sexual harassment continued, according to the girl, while Reyes “never had any consequences. He had a feeling of invincibility and believed he was untouchable,” the suit claims.

The girl’s mother met with Tony Rubio, owner of the Golden Corral franchise in Palm Coast, to discuss the issue. Rubio, according to the suit, said there was no proof, but that if it happened again that he should be notified. Reyes “continued to inappropriately touch the female staff including [the complainant] because there were no consequences for his sexual harassment,” the suit states.

Reyes’s brother, the restaurant manager referred to only as “Omar” in the lawsuit,  is said to have held a meeting with the complainant, Reyes and Reyes’s fiancée (the timing of the meeting is not specified), at which the girl was asked to write a statement –but not given a copy of it when she requested it. After the meeting ended and the girl and Omar were left alone in his office, the complaint alleges, Omar said: “I know he did it to you, I believe you, he is my brother and I have been covering for him for years.”

The plaintiff is seeking damages in excess of $15,000, naming Reyes individually in the first count, and claims in the second count that Gold Coast Corral knew of Reyes’s propensities and should be held liable. The suit also claims that the restaurant negligently retained Reyes without an “appropriate investigation” after the issue came to light.

The second count focuses on the company’s responsibility: that’s the count the company is asking the court to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiff “cannot state a cause of action” under which damages can be awarded. The reason: an employer cannot be held liable “for the tortious or criminal acts of an employee, unless the acts were committed during the course of the employment and to further a purpose or interest, however excessive or misguided, of the employer.”

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17 Responses for “Lawsuit Against Palm Coast’s Golden Corral Alleges Sexual Harassment of 17-Year-Old Girl”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Is this for real? I will never eat here again! This manager and his brother should be fired. I hope she gets awarded lots of money. Things have not changed on bit. Men always stick together. I hope the other women step forward and stick it to them good!

  2. Disgraceful says:

    This is so disgraceful. This also happened back in 2013 with another GM named Tony and an employee. The only thing that happened to Tony is that he too was transferred. Seems like the owner doesn’t really care about his employees. All he cares about is making money to pay for his big house in Georgia. How pathetic!!

  3. Geezer says:

    First it was people sneezing or coughing over the hot food displays, and the fondling of the cutlery by
    nose-picking, unsupervised children–and now sexual harrassment of a minor–talk about unappetizing…

  4. Denny says:

    I work there and I personally know that our employer takes everything very seriously and they are great people to work for this is just like any other story people hear one side and run with it they strive to satisfy their customers and make our workplace a safe environment

  5. gladfly says:

    He said,she said…..ho hum…..No basis for a law suit folks. Next case.

  6. Disgraceful says:

    Same thing happened in 2013 when I worked there…..this stuff happens….you really don’t know the whole story of Golden Corral unless you started working there from the day it opened!!!

  7. Outsider says:

    Have the complaints been documented? Were the owners of the restaurant notified in writing? These complaints have to be documented, and if there is no response from the company, then they are liable. If they can get witnesses to confirm the stories, including the complaints made to management that went unanswered, then they certainly have a case. Unwanted sexual advances and inappropriate touching is definitely sexual harassment. These douche bags are in for a world of trouble.

  8. Former employee says:

    Sounds fishy and inconsistent

  9. r&r says:

    It sounds like she quit and had to have a reason to tell her parents why.

  10. Disgraceful says:

    The complaints in 2013 were documented and Corporate was also notified, but yet the only thing that happened was the GM was transferred out. The original owners were great to work for, not these new owners. Too many complaints swept under the rug!

  11. RP says:

    Last year at this same Golden Corral I was eating spaghetti and almost broke my tooth on something hard, it ended up being a piece of glass. I quietly brought this to the attention of an employee who then told another employee. A man who I assume was the manager stirs the spaghetti sauce with a spoon and looks in it, then walks away. I’m sorry, but if there are glass shards in food you can’t just leave it there for other people to eat. I will never eat at any Golden Corral ever again.

  12. just me says:

    Anonymous says:
    June 2, 2016 at 11:21 pm
    Is this for real? I will never eat here again! This manager and his brother should be fired. I hope she gets awarded lots of money. Things have not changed on bit. Men always stick together. I hope the other women step forward and stick it to them good!

    ?? askes is this for real?? maybe its not a “real” case.”Men” always stick together?? You mean like Hillary stuck up for her sexual predator of a husband? My hope is that if a crime was committed the guilty pay.

  13. Marley says:

    That place has some good meatloaf. All I can say is find me a business that doesn’t have “sexual harassment ” regardless of who is being offended. Then we can begin to slander the corral. That doesn’t mean it’s ok but I can guarantee you that it is everywhere. And the fried catfish is awesome too.

  14. dave says:

    Always fat unhealthy people eating in those establishments. I can only imagine the lack of morals people must have to work in a place that serves such crap food by bulk. cancerous

  15. Harrison Hodges says:

    I had a similar experience as a restaurant owner in Texas. It is a no win situation for the employer. When young males and young females are in close proximity there will be situations that result in inappropriate behavior. It is impossible for management to be omnipresent. I also had complaints from gay boys that girls touched and spoke to them inappropriately.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Maybe the claimant will loose and have to pay Golden Coral’s legal fees and it will teach them a lesson to file a weak case. From what has been reported here, this is very weak. Why was this never reported to the police? Sounds like someone is disgruntled.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I am pretty sure the owner knew all that was going on since the manager is his family!

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