- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued a Little Rock, Arkansas, Pei Wei Asian Diner, alleging it failed to investigate complaints of sexual harassment from two of its managers.
- The managers subjected young women to sexual harassment and a hostile work environment, according to EEOC. Two workers resigned due to the behavior, some of which the company had been aware of since early 2016. The restaurant fielded complaints concerning the harassment from both managers but "allowed the managers' harassment to go unchecked," EEOC said.
- "Sexual harassment of young females in the restaurant industry remains a serious problem," EEOC Memphis District Director Delner Franklin-Thomas said in a news release. The agency seeks monetary relief, punitive and compensatory damages, lost benefits compensation and an injunction against future discrimination.
When HR receives a complaint alleging discrimination, including harassment, it should act swiftly, Cobham HR VP Julie Stickney previously told HR Dive. What should follow is a consistent investigation process: "It will actually build the culture better if [employees] know that we take the report seriously, and we address [complaints] calmly, and we get data that can be validated to the degree possible, and we make a sane decision," she said.
Standard investigation processes and complaint lifecycles will help employers avoid EEOC charges. In fiscal year 2018, the total discrimination charges EEOC received declined from the 2017 count of 84,254 to 76,418. But the agency observed a 13% increase in sexual harassment charges compared to the previous year. Victoria A. Lipnic, then-acting chair of EEOC, noted the impact of social forces on that uptick: "We cannot look back on last year without noting the significant impact of the #MeToo movement in the number of sexual harassment and retaliation charges filed with the agency."
As the #MeToo movement continues to highlight the issue of sexual harassment and workers receive more training, it will behoove employers to instill a culture of respect by installing and following sound procedures around discrimination and harassment of any type.