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EEOC sues restaurant franchisee over employee arbitration requirement

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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing restaurant franchisee Doherty Enterprises Inc. over the company’s use of mandatory arbitration agreements for employees.

Announcing the suit on Friday, the EEOC said Doherty, which operates 140 franchise restaurants in Florida, Georgia, New Jersey and New York, violates an employee’s right to file charges of discrimination by mandating arbitration for all employment-related claims as a condition of employment.

“When an employer forces all complaints about employment discrimination into confidential arbitration, it shields itself from federal oversight of its employment practices,” EEOC Regional Attorney Robert E. Weisberg said in a statement. “This practice violates the law, and the EEOC will take action to deter further use of these types of overly broad arbitration agreements.”

The lawsuit, EEOC v. Doherty Enterprises, Inc., Civil Action No. 9:14-cv-81184-KAM, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

A spokesperson for Doherty Enterprises, whose restaurants include Applebees, Noodles and Co. and Panera Bread locations, was unavailable for comment.