Fast-food chain Chipotle Mexican Grill will pay $95,000 and make substantial changes to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Austin Melton, a manager at a San Jose Chipotle store who was 22 years old at the time, was forced to endure pervasive verbal and physical harassment by his female supervisor. His supervisor propositioned Melton and his then-girlfriend for sex, touched him inappropriately, and posted a "scoreboard" in the main office to track the staff's sexual activities. When Melton reported the harassment, he faced further mistreatment including being locked in a walk-in freezer, the EEOC's suit alleged. After Chipotle failed to adequately address the harassment, Melton quit. Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex-based harassment.
The three-year consent decree settling the lawsuit provides $95,000 to Melton in lost wages and compensatory damages. The decree also requires Chipotle to develop and implement additional policies, procedures, and trainings at 27 restaurants in the South Bay area to ensure harassment-free workplaces, and to enhance accountability and oversight of managers, supervisors and employees. The fast-food chain will provide tailored anti-discrimination trainings to its leadership and employees, make its EEO policies available to employees, track and report to the EEOC all complaints of sex harassment or retaliation it receives from its employees, and post a notice to employees about the consent decree and employees' rights under federal law.
According to the EEOC, younger workforces are at increased risk of harassment. Particular care must be taken to ensure that young, inexperienced employees are encouraged to speak up about unwelcome conduct. "Combating workplace harassment is a top priority for the EEOC, and it is especially critical that we protect young employees, who may be particularly vulnerable to harassment and less familiar with their rights," said a representative of the EEOC. "We commend Chipotle for taking meaningful steps to ensure that such harassment is not fostered in its restaurants."