Del Taco, a Mexican quick-service chain based in Southern California, will pay $1.25 million to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against the company by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In the suit, the agency accused a general manager and shift leader at Del Taco’s Rancho Cucamonga-area stores of sexually harassing “young female workers almost daily by subjecting them to unwelcome physical contact, vulgar comments, and propositions for sex.”
The EEOC said the behavior at the Southern California-based restaurants were so “prevalent that other male employees felt free to engage in sexual harassment as well.”
When the workers complained to Del Taco’s human-resources division, Del Taco failed to respond adequately to their complaints or stop the harassment or retaliation, the EEOC said.
In addition to the settlement price, the Lake Forest, Calif.-based chain “must retain an EEO monitor, review and revise its policies and procedures on discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, and create a structure for employees to report discrimination and harassment,” the EEOC said.
In a statement, Del Taco said the "safety and wellbeing of our employees are always top priorities."
"We take any harassment allegations very seriously. We fully cooperated with the EEOC throughout its investigation and the matter has been resolved. In addition, we completed an internal investigation and took appropriate measures. We remain committed to providing a safe environment for all employees and customers, free from harassment of any kind," the company told NRN in a statement.
Rosa Viramontes, district director of the EEOC Los Angeles district office, said a case like this highlights how young employees may be especially vulnerable to workplace harassment.
“It is important for employers to recognize this and create policies and practices that ensure a safe and harassment-free work environment," Viramontes said in a statement.
Employees must also go through training to learn about anti-discrimination laws.
“Employers are encouraged to have strong systems in place to respond swiftly and effectively to harassment complaints—particularly where the workforce consists of young workers,” Anna Park, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Los Angeles district, said in a statement.
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Update, Dec. 3, 2020: This story has been edited to include a statement from Del Taco.