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Business Observer Friday, Aug. 14, 2015 5 years ago

Nightclub faces $365,000 judgment in race case

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Bliss Cabaret allegedly engaged in “blatant discriminatory” actions, an official says.

CLEARWATER — An adult entertainment club in Pinellas County, Bliss Cabaret, faces a $365,000 default judgment in a race discrimination and retaliation case brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The EEOC alleges Michael Tomkovich, the owner of Bliss Cabaret and its successor corporation, Executive Gentlemen's Club, fired bartender Quatavia Harden because he didn't want an African-American bartender working at the club. The EEOC, according to a statement, also contends Patrick Franke, the Bliss Cabaret manager who hired Harden, “opposed and refused to participate in the discriminatory conduct and was suspended and then terminated as a result.”

The federal agency later added Southeast Showclubs LLC, the parent company of the nightclubs, as a defendant also liable for the discriminatory conduct, according to the release.

The acts at issue, the EEOC says, violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race and also prohibits retaliation for opposing unlawful practices. The EEOC filed a lawsuit in the case in U.S. District Court for the Middle District in Tampa after attempts to settle the matter informally through its conciliation process were unsuccessful.

Tomkovich failed to respond to the EEOC's allegations and based on that failure, U.S. District Judge Virginia Hernandez Covington found him liable for discriminatory conduct, the release states. The $365,000 judgment includes punitive damages, compensatory damages, back pay, interest, and tax penalty offsets for Franke and Harden, the release states.

“Stopping blatant discriminatory hiring such as this is crucial,” EEOC Regional Attorney Robert E. Weisberg says in the statement. “This employer implemented discriminatory policies at all levels of management, then retaliated against the one manager who opposed such policies. Such conduct flies in the face of the anti-discrimination laws EEOC enforces.”

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