The world’s largest Burger King franchisee, Carols Corporation, will pay $2.5 million and take significant remedial steps to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The lawsuit alleged discrimination against 89 female employees around the country, many of whom were teenagers when they worked for Burger King.
The EEOC’s lawsuit charged that Carrols Corporation, which operates nearly 600 Burger King restaurants in the United States, subjected a class of women to egregious sexual harassment at Burger King locations throughout the Midwest, Southeast, and Northeast. The EEOC alleged that the harassment, which ranged from obscene comments, jokes, and propositions to unwanted touching, exposure of genitalia, strip searches, stalking, and even rape, was perpetrated by managers in the majority of cases. According to the EEOC, Carrols also retaliated against some of the women by cutting their hours, manufacturing discipline against them, and even firing them, while it forced more women to quit because the harassment made their working conditions intolerable.
Under the terms of the consent decree resolving the case, Carrols will pay $2.5 million in compensatory damages and lost wages to the 89 victims. It also will implement a number of measures to increase employees’ awareness of Carrols’ anti-harassment policies and to improve Carrols’ response to complaints brought forward under those policies. Those measures include enhanced training for Carrols’ managers in preventing and responding to harassment, improved mechanisms for tracking harassment complaints, notices posted in all domestic Carrols Burger King locations informing employees about the lawsuit’s resolution and their rights under federal anti-discrimination laws, and an injunction prohibiting further harassment and retaliation.