CHICAGO (CN) – The owner of Giordano’s Pizza, famous for Chicago-style deep dish, wrongly encouraged an employee to take a polygraph test, in violation of an obscure law, a federal judge ruled.
Juana Sanchez worked as hostess for Giordano’s Pizza at its Prudential Tower location in Chicago from November 2008 to July 2010. This franchise restaurant is owned by Basil Apostolou, the son of defendant John Apostolou, who is the president and primary shareholder of Giordano’s Enterprises. Giordano’s is a famous Chicago pizza chain and claims to be one of the originators of Chicago-style pizza.
Sanchez says she reported sexual harassment to Basil in 2010, saying that her manager, Alex Marquez, spoke about wanting to have sex with her and spank her.
Basil says Marquez rejected the claim and that he would take a lie detector test to prove it.
As part of his investigation, Basil held a meeting with Sanchez at Giordano’s corporate headquarters, and his father John attended a portion of it. In his affidavit, John said, “I then told Juana Sanchez that Alex Marquez had indicated that he would be willing to take a lie detector test.” Basil also testified that his father said to Sanchez, “Alex is willing to take one, are you?”
Giordano’s eventually fired Sanchez, leading her to sue the restaurant and John Apostolou for wrongful termination and violating the Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA).
U.S. District Judge Sharon Coleman agreed that Sanchez proved the EPPA violation, though there is very little case law interpreting the act. “The comment to Sanchez that Marquez is willing to take a lie detector falls within the prohibition of the EPPA as an indirect suggestion that Sanchez submit to a polygraph test,” Coleman wrote on Nov. 2.
“John Apostolou admits in his declaration that he said to Juana Sanchez that he had known Alex Marquez for a long time and he did not believe that he was the kind of person to do what Sanchez claimed,” Coleman wrote.
“John Apostolou’s admissions show that he questioned the veracity of Sanchez’s claim and then made the statement that her alleged harasser was willing to take a polygraph,” she added.
John had claimed he was not acting as an employer when he spoke to Sanchez about the lie-detector test since he did not own the franchise where she worked and was not her supervisor. The court disagreed.
Given that John is the president of Giordano’s Enterprises, and the meeting was held at his offices and “considering the entirety of the situation, John Apostolou was acting in the interest of the employer in relation to Sanchez,” Coleman concluded.