HOUSTON The federal government is suing a Houston restaurant franchise claiming it created a sexually hostile environment for employees.

Two bartenders at Berryhill Baja Grill said they were groped by Phillip Wattel, who owned two of the Berryhill Baja Grill restaurant franchises. The women also said that Wattel exposed himself to them.

When they complained, the women said they were either fired, or treated so poorly they had to quit.

The lawsuit asks for back pay and punitive damages.

Berryhill Corporation CEO Jeff Anon released a statement Wednesday addressing the lawsuit:

BerryhillCorporation is troubled by the nature of the allegations and concerned to see such allegations in relation to an independent franchise. If such allegations were to have occurred at Berryhill Corporation involving its employees, they would not have been tolerated. We will monitor these allegations against the Wattel franchise and hope that this franchise will expeditiously respond to them given the troublesome nature of the claims against that franchise.

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