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EEOC wins judgment against strip club in discrimination, retaliation suit

Bliss Cabaret owner accused of firing bartender over race

CLEARWATER, Fla. – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission won a judgement of more than $365,000 against the Bliss Cabaret strip club and its parent company this week after a bartender was allegedly fired based on her race.

The EEOC said the Clearwater strip club and its successor corporation, Executive Gentlemen's Club, fired Quatavia Harden as a bartender because its owner, Michael Tomkovich, said he didn't want a black bartender working at the club.

The EEOC claimed that former manager Patrick Franke, who hired Harden, was suspended and then fired after he refused to comply with Tomkovich's request.

The EEOC later added Southeast Showclubs LLC, the parent company of the strip club, as a defendant in the lawsuit.

"Stopping blatant discriminatory hiring such as this is crucial," EEOC Regional Attorney Robert E. Weisberg said. "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."

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida after the EEOC initially attempted to settle the matter informally through its conciliation process.

The commission claimed the defendants failed to respond to the allegations, which led to the lawsuit.

A total of $365,024.47 was awarded to Franke and Harden, which included punitive damages, compensatory damages, back pay, interest and tax-penalty offsets.

Tomkovich owns and operates a chain of strip clubs located throughout Florida.

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