The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, filed a lawsuit against Del Taco on Monday accusing at least three male employees at a Southern California restaurant of sexually harassing and retaliating against female workers, including teenagers.
“Supervisory officials harassed female staff, most of them teenagers, with inappropriate sexual comments and unwanted physical touching,” according to the EEOC.
Some of the young women complained to management and human resources for the restaurant in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., but no corrective action was taken by the company, the EEOC said. The location is a company-operated store.
The complaint targets three male employees, including a general manager and a shift leader. In one example, a 17-year-old female said a shift leader made repeated unwelcome sexual advances, including grabbing her arm and asking her, “Why do you act like you don’t want it,” according to the lawsuit.
Another female accuser said the general manager would routinely look “up and down” at her and her female co-workers to the point of making her uncomfortable.
Officials with Del Taco, based in Lake Forest, Calif., said in a statement, “Del Taco takes this matter very seriously and we are currently investigating the allegations that have been brought to our attention. Based on the findings of that investigation, we will take action as appropriate. Del Taco is committed to providing a safe environment for all employees and customers, free from harassment of any kind.”
In the lawsuit, however, the EEOC faults the chain for not taking action after some of the women made formal complaints to management and human resources.
“Instead, the company retaliated against those who complained by changing their schedules and reducing their working hours,” the EEOC said.
Some of the female workers who complained were also forced to resign, the lawsuit states.
“Employers need to take a serious proactive approach to promoting accountability, training and leadership to achieve a workplace free of harassment,” said Anna Park, attorney for EEOC’s Los Angeles district office.
The EEOC, which enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, is seeking an undisclosed amount in punitive damages from Del Taco.
According to EEOC data analyzed by BuzzFeed, more than 10,000 claims of sexual harassment were filed by workers at full-service restaurants between 1995 to 2016. Nearly 600 sexual-harassment claims, made during the same time period, were filed with the EEOC by employees working in limited-service restaurants, BuzzFeed said.
Update, Sept. 18, 2018: This story has been updated to clarify that the location is a company-operated store.
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