- Chipotle has agreed to make a number of changes to its sexual harassment policies, procedures and trainings for 27 of its California restaurants and to pay $95,000 to a worker who alleged in court filings that he was subjected to sexual harassment while working at one of the eatery's San Jose locations. As part of the settlement, Chipotle did not admit to any wrongdoing (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. No. 17-cv-05382 (N.D. Calif., Dec. 2, 2019)).
- A "female manager repeatedly propositioned and touched" Austin Melton, a former manager for the restaurant chain, who was 22 years old at the time, according to a statement from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The harassment included the supervisor's posting a "scoreboard...to track the staff's sexual activities." After Melton reported the behavior, the mistreatment did not stop — he faced other acts, including "being locked in a walk-in freezer," EEOC said.
- In addition to the monetary settlement, the employer also agreed to enhanced accountability and oversight of managers, supervisors and employees; to provide tailored anti-discrimination trainings to its leadership and employees; and to notify employees about the consent decree. Chipotle did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
These and other recent allegation demonstrate the importance of following up on employee complaints. A Pei Wei Asian Diner restaurant in Arkansas, for example, was recently sued by EEOC for allegedly ignoring complaints that two managers were sexually harassing employees.
To prevent discrimination and harassment claims, experts recommend compliance training, especially for managers and supervisors. Employers should conduct harassment training at least once a year, with separate sessions for managers and employees, one attorney previously told HR Dive.
HR also can create a reporting procedure for harassment and discrimination that starts with taking all complaints seriously, regardless of whether the alleged harassment is at the hands of a supervisor or co-worker, and make sure that complaints are promptly investigated.
While much of the #MeToo movement's focus is on allegations of sexual harassment suffered by women, men often raise such complaints, too. After all, federal laws protect workers regardless of their gender. EEOC noted in the statement announcing the Chipotle settlement that roughly 16% of sexual harassment charges filed with the agency are brought by male employees.