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U.S. Agency Sues Regal Theater Chain

The company is accused of ignoring the sexual harassment claim of an employee at its Marina del Rey complex, then retaliating against him.

July 06, 2006|Claire Hoffman | Times Staff Writer

A federal agency has sued Regal Entertainment Group, alleging that the nation's largest theater chain ignored the sexual harassment claim of a Marina del Rey projectionist and then retaliated against him for making it.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accused the Knoxville, Tenn., company of punishing Jesus Buenrostro after he complained that a female co-worker repeatedly groped him at the Marina del Rey 6 theater.

Buenrostro began work at the complex in 1997 and worked his way up from an usher'd post to the projection booth. But in 2003, the 31-year-old told federal officials, a co-worker began grabbing him while the two worked together in the darkened booth.

After he complained to the general manager, Buenrostro said, she mocked him, cut his hours and then demoted him to the concession stand. The groping continued, and Buenrostro complained to others, he said.

The employment commission alleged in the suit, filed June 29 in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, that the manager acted with the knowledge and encouragement of Regal's corporate human resources department.

Two other managers, who tried to shield Buenrostro from the retaliation, are also named as plaintiffs in the suit. According to the employment commission, one was fired and the other quit after he felt pressured by upper management.

"It was the company's responsibility to ensure that that this kind of retaliation didn't happen," commission attorney Anna Y. Park said.

Park said the case was unusual. Although the percentage of sexual harassment cases filed with the commission by men has increased to 15% in 2004 from 9% in 1992, they are rarely cases in which women harass men.

"It was our understanding that there were other victims, but men are more reluctant to complain about sex harassment," Park said.

Regal has 6,415 screens in 40 states, including 1,175 in California. The chain, controlled by investor Philip Anschutz, operates under the Regal Cinemas, Edwards Theatres and United Artists Theatres banners.

Spokesman Russ Nunley said Regal was "aware of the issue and we do not comment on issues related to theater personnel."

Buenrostro continues to work at the theater, and the general manager was moved to another location, according to a theater manager and the employment commission.

The commission's suit is not the first allegation of sexual harassment against Regal.

In 2003, a teenage employee filed a civil suit against Regal and others alleging that she had been sexually harassed, abused and raped by a theater manager in Bryn Mawr, Pa. She said management did nothing to intervene. The case was settled out of court last month. The manager pleaded guilty to several criminal charges and was sentenced to three to six years in prison.

In a suit filed in April, a janitor for a United Artists theater in Anchorage filed an employment discrimination claim against the company, including allegations of sexual harassment. That case is pending.

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