Chipotle Mexican Grill Sued by EEOC For Sexual Harassment, Retaliation

Female GM Propositioned and Groped Young Male Employee, Federal Agency Charges

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Fast-food chain Chipotle Mexican Grill violated federal law by allowing a restaurant manager to sexually harass her subordinate and retaliating against him after he reported the misconduct, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC’s investigation, a 22-year-old male shift manager at a Chipotle San Jose store was forced to endure intrusive verbal and physical harassment by his female general manager. In addition to frequently discussing her own sex life and posting a daily “sex scoreboard” in the main office concerning all the staff’s sex lives, the general manager told the young shift manager that she wanted to suck his genitals, watch him have sex with his girlfriend, and engage in a “threesome.” She also frequently slapped, groped and grabbed his privates, the EEOC charged.

Even after he reported her behavior to upper management, the general manager continued to harass him, says the EEOC, and she retaliated against him by instructing employees not to speak to him. Also, he was locked in a walk-in freezer, and his motorcycle was picked up and moved to a different area in the parking lot. Left with no other alternatives, the male employee ultimately quit, the EEOC said.

Sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. After first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process, the EEOC filed its lawsuit (EEOC v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Case No. 5:17-CV-05382) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The EEOC seeks monetary damages for the shift manager and injunctive relief to remedy and prevent sexual harassment and retaliation from recurring at Chipotle.

“This young man’s first real job experience was shaped by a supervisor who abused her authority and created a sexually charged workplace culture,” said EEOC San Francisco Senior Trial Attorney Peter F. Laura. “Federal law requires employers to protect their workers from harassment and sexual abuse, especially in the hands of a manager.”

EEOC San Jose Local Office Director Rosa Salazar added, “Employers must take immediate and effective steps to investigate harassment, no matter whether filed by a male or female employee.” She noted that 16.6% of sexual harassment charges filed with the agency were brought by male workers in FY 2016.

Facts About Retaliation

The EEO laws prohibit punishing job applicants or employees for asserting their rights to be free from employment discrimination including harassment.  Asserting these EEO rights is called “protected activity,” and it can take many forms.  For example, it is unlawful to retaliate against applicants or employees for:

  • filing or being a witness in an EEO charge, complaint, investigation, or lawsuit
  • communicating with a supervisor or manager about employment discrimination, including harassment
  • answering questions during an employer investigation of alleged harassment
  • refusing to follow orders that would result in discrimination
  • resisting sexual advances, or intervening to protect others
  • requesting accommodation of a disability or for a religious practice
  • asking managers or co-workers about salary information to uncover potentially discriminatory wages.

Participating in a complaint process is protected from retaliation under all circumstances. Other acts to oppose discrimination are protected as long as the employee was acting on a reasonable belief that something in the workplace may violate EEO laws, even if he or she did not use legal terminology to describe it.

Engaging in EEO activity, however, does not shield an employee from all discipline or discharge. Employers are free to discipline or terminate workers if motivated by non-retaliatory and non-discriminatory reasons that would otherwise result in such consequences.  However, an employer is not allowed to do anything in response to EEO activity that would discourage someone from resisting or complaining about future discrimination.

For example, depending on the facts, it could be retaliation if an employer acts because of the employee’s EEO activity to:

  • reprimand the employee or give a performance evaluation that is lower than it should be;
  • transfer the employee to a less desirable position;
  • engage in verbal or physical abuse;
  • threaten to make, or actually make reports to authorities (such as reporting immigration status or contacting the police);
  • increase scrutiny;
  • spread false rumors, treat a family member negatively (for example, cancel a contract with the person’s spouse); or
  • make the person’s work more difficult (for example, punishing an employee for an EEO complaint by purposefully changing his work schedule to conflict with family responsibilities).

For more information, Questions and Answers: Enforcement Guidance on Retaliation and Related Issues, https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/retaliation-qa.cfm.

Desco Industries Will Pay $45,000 to Settle EEOC Retaliation Lawsuit

Manufacturer Terminated Employee for Complaining About Race Discrimination, Federal Agency Charged

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Desco Industries, Inc., a California corporation doing business in Sanford, N.C., will pay $45,000 to settle a workplace retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC charged that Desco Industries violated federal law when it discharged Daniel Worthy in retaliation for complaining about race discrimination.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, Daniel Worthy worked for Desco in 2015 through a third-party staffing agency. Around February 2015, Worthy discussed his interest in a forklift position with Desco’s warehouse foreman. Based on their discussion, Worthy expected he was in line for the next open forklift position. When Worthy, who is black, later saw a non-black employee operating a fork­lift, he believed Desco had passed him over for the position because of his race. Worthy com­plained to the staffing agency recruiter who notified Desco of Worthy’s race discrimination complaint. Within days of learning about Worthy’s complaint, Desco fired Worthy in retaliation for complaining about discrimination.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from terminating someone who reports race discrimination or other employment practices which he or she reasonably believes violate Title VII. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Desco Industries, Inc., Civil Action No 1:16-CV-00858) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the agency’s conciliation process.

In addition to providing monetary relief to Worthy, a two-year consent decree requires Desco to develop and implement an anti-retaliation policy and to conduct annual training for supervisors and managers on Title VII’s prohibition against retaliation. Desco Industries must also post an employee notice about the lawsuit and provide periodic reports to the EEOC.

“Federal law protects those who come forward to report suspected employment discrimin­a­tion,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “The EEOC stands ready to enforce those protections.”