EEOC sues shuttered Greeley nightclub over alleged sexual harassment
The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing Greeley bar Starlite Station for sexual harassment and retaliation.
The western-themed bar and dance hall operated near the Greeley Shopping Center from 2018 until 2021, when the bar closed following the termination of its lease.
A year ago country nightclub Starlite Station closed in a strip mall, now even the building is gone, replaced by the construction of new affordable housing, but former employees say the treatment they got there endured their rest.
The EEOC filed a lawsuit against Starlite Station in September, based on testimony from seven employees, alleging it created a hostile work environment based on gender.
“Unwelcome comments, unwelcome touching, business owner touching women, making comments about boobs, buttocks, gender stereotyping of female employees,” says EEOC attorney Nathan Foster.
The complaint also alleges that bar owner James Jennings made discriminatory comments about contestants and employees, touched them without their consent, and attempted to have sex with them.
“Our complaint alleges that this is a problem not only for the women we were talking about who were discriminated against, but also for the male employees who did not want to work in an environment where that was the norm,” says Foster. .
Although not involved in the complaint, Hailie Duncan and Sophia McElroy said they suffered the same treatment while working as shooters at Starlite. For McElroy, it started before he was hired.
“I was cool, I’ll be there for an official interview tomorrow morning, he was like make sure you wear a low-cut shirt,” she says.
Both women claim Jennings took no action against customers who sexually harassed them and forced them to wear uniforms they were not comfortable with.
“It was like you didn’t have to wear it but you didn’t have to have a job here,” says Duncan, who was 18 when she worked there. They also claim that Jennings tricked them into drinking when they were underage and letting him sleep over at their house.
“Basically, if I haven’t started drinking with them, I won’t have a job the next day,” says Duncan.
Evans police have suspended an investigation into Duncan’s roommate’s allegations that Jennings sexually assaulted her while they were a couple.
The EEOC complaint alleges that Jennings had sex with another employee who was too drunk to consent, at the Starlite station in 2019. Greeley police say the investigation into the alleged assault is closed and that no charges had been filed.
The complaint also contains allegations that retaliatory action was taken against the employees who complained.
“They were disciplined, faced fire, asked to meet with lawyers to sign papers admitting they had done something wrong, and ultimately faced a trial,” says Foster.
McElroy says most employees have been forced to sign NDAs. After learning of the EEOC’s complaint, she decided to speak out despite her NDA.
“I just started crying because I feel like someone did something, and now I think I have the opportunity to do it too,” McElroy said.
James Jennings denies all personal allegations made against him, citing investigations by Greeley Police which he says found “no factual basis” for the allegations. This detail has not been confirmed by Greeley Police.
The EEOC’s complaint is a civil action against the employer, not a criminal action against an individual, which means Jennings would not face jail time. If Starlite Station’s actions are found to violate employment laws, the company should provide financial redress to the employees involved and institute changes in business practices. There is a programming conference in the EEOC Complaint scheduled for January 2023.
In response to a request for comment, Jennings’ attorney provided signed statements from 2020 and 2021 by three of the employees in the complaint saying their statements were untrue.