Pei Wei Fresh Kitchen in Little Rock, Arkansas, will pay $300,000 to former employees as part of a settlement of a sexual harassment and constructive discharge lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, the restaurant failed to take action in response to severe and pervasive sexual harassment by the restaurant's general manager after teens and other young female employees complained about the abuse. The company allegedly had notice of the general manager's conduct by at least early 2016; however, he continued to harass the young female employees through early December 2017. In spite of receiving sexual harassment complaints against both managers, the company allowed the managers' harassment to go unchecked, the EEOC charged.
Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Under the three-year consent decree settling the suit, in addition to the monetary payment, Pei Wei will revise its written policy prohibiting sexual harassment. The company must revise its procedures to ensure that all complaints receive prompt attention by upper management and are thoroughly investigated. Pei Wei must disseminate a copy of its policies and procedures to all employees and will conduct training at its Little Rock location.
"Young women are especially vulnerable to sexual harassment by an older manager," said a representative of the EEOC. "Title VII ensures that employees can work in an environment free of sexual harassment. The EEOC continues to take sexual harassment complaints very seriously."