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Federal lawsuit alleges restaurant owner grabbed female employees, made unwanted sexual advances

Posted at 12:27 PM, May 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-09 18:58:12-04

AMHERST, N.Y. (WKBW) — The owner of an Amherst restaurant is being sued by the federal government over claims that he sexually harassed female employees.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says that Paul Pelczynski made unwanted and unwelcome sexual advances and comments to female employees, including requests for sex. The lawsuit also claims that Pelczynski "engaged in inappropriate contact with female employees, including grabbing their buttocks, kissing them, and routinely brushing up against them."

According to the EEOC, the restaurant fired female employees who objected to or rejected Pelczynski’s advances. The EEOC says that female employees quit the restaurant because of the "hostile work environment."

“Owning a business is not a license to sexually harass employees,” said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office. “Business owners have a duty to protect employees from sexual harassment, and the EEOC is prepared to take strong action where an owner abuses his authority.”

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court here in Buffalo.

The EEOC says they are seeking compensatory damages and punitive damages for the affected employees.

The EEOC is a federal agency that enforces laws that make it illegal to discriminate against job applicant and employees. The agency protects job applicants and employees from being discriminated against because of their sex, race, color, and religion.

7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly spoke briefly with Paul Pelczynski by phone. Pelczynski told Ed he was "shaking" after learning about the lawsuit and "couldn't believe it."

Further comments were referred to Buffalo attorney Robert Boreanaz.

"The allegations are irresponsible and ridiculously vague," said Boreanaz, who added,"The company has been in business for over forty years and employed thousands of staff members. This is the first of any such allegation."

The attorney said the Protocol Restaurant will remain open while the lawsuit is handled in court.