- On behalf of a class of young female employees (including minors), the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against restaurant chain Swami’s Café and Honey’s Bistro. The lawsuit focuses on alleged sexual harassment perpetrated by the male co-workers and supervisors of several women and girls at nine locations of the San Diego-based chain.
- The harassment included “repeated, frequent, and offensive sex-based remarks and advances” and unwelcome touching, according to the EEOC. Workers who complained about the alleged treatment faced retaliation or were forced to leave their jobs, the EEOC claimed.
- A regional attorney for the Los Angeles district office of EEOC, Anna Park, noted that the EEOC is seeing “more cases involving younger workers who may not be aware of their rights, or may be hesitant to report harassment, because this is their first time in the workforce.”
Over the past few years, the EEOC has pursued a number of cases against restaurant chains involving sexual harassment of workers, particularly underage workers. In April 2022, Long John Silver’s agreed to pay $200,000 to settle EEOC allegations that two male managers offensively touched and propositioned workers, and that the restaurant fired one 17-year-old worker who complained.
Earlier this year, a McDonald’s franchise owner with restaurants in Arizona, California and Nevada, agreed to pay almost $2 million to settle EEOC allegations of teenage workers being sexually harassed and intimidated continuously.
Previously, attorneys emphasized the importance of clearly outlined anti-sexual harassment policies and procedures, along with training. Beyond investigating, an attorney recommended employers handling sexual harassment complaints should thank the complainant for coming forward; from the beginning, this helps eliminate perceptions of retaliation.