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EEOC Sues Chipotle for Sexual Harassment of Teen Workers

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has sued Chipotle, alleging the fast food chain’s management failed to investigate and resolve harassment of young female employees severe enough to force two of them to leave their jobs.

As the EEOC describes it:

● In 2019, a service manager at one of Chipotle’s Washington state stores began to target a 16-year-old worker with unwelcome sexual comments, touching, and requests for sex. The store’s general manager failed to investigate,  instead instructing the teen to refrain from an inappropriate relationship with the offender while scheduling her to work a closing shift with that person. The agency asserts the service manager later sexually assaulted that worker and subjected others to harassment; and

● In 2020, Chipotle again failed to take appropriate action at that store on complaints that an employee had commented on the bodies of female co-workers, announcing nicknames like “mama,” “sweetheart,” and “baby girl.” While committing to investigate, Chipotle permitted the alleged harasser to return to the workplace where he angrily confronted those who had complained. The suit contends two workers later quit fearing for their safety.

As the EEOC’s regional director put it:  “This case involves workers in their teens and early 20s. These are their first impressions they will. . . form about the workplace, and it is devastating when an employer permits sexual harassment to continue despite repeated complaints. We want to send a clear and opposing message: every worker has a right to a workplace free from sexual harassment, and the EEOC will hold employers accountable.”

While seeking damages against an employer here, the EEOC also promotes prevention by its Chart of Risk Factors for Harassment and Responsive Strategies on ways managers can detect and head-off such unlawful workplace conduct.

Take Aways:  Federal and California law clearly call for zero harassment tolerance no matter the size of the employer.  Management must publish and uphold such policy in practice, including regular awareness, prevention and resolution training of supervisors and rank-and-file employees alike.

Our lawyers provide live webinar harassment prevention training for all California employees.  Our office also offers California compliant anti-harassment policies within our model handbook, updated for 2022.

For further information, please contact Tim Bowles, Cindy Bamforth or Helena Kobrin.

See also:

Tim Bowles
March 18, 2022

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