- Chipotle's alleged inaction following reports of sexual misconduct left workers vulnerable to increasingly aggressive behavior, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in a lawsuit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Chipotle Services LLC, No. 22-cv-00279 (W.D. Wash., March 9, 2022)).
- The agency's complaint targets a Chipotle located in Sammamish, Washington. The restaurant failed to properly address reports of sexual misconduct in both 2019 and 2020, EEOC said. In 2019, a general manager failed to investigate another manager's claims that another manager, who was 29, solicited a 16-year-old worker for sex. The general manager continually scheduled the accused to work with the younger worker, and he sexually assaulted her one night during closing, the suit said.
- The following year, Chipotle agreed to investigate complaints about a crew member's verbal sexual harassment. But the restaurant continued to schedule the worker, EEOC said, who "angrily confronted" those who complained, leading them to quit. Chipotle did not respond by press time to HR Dive's request for comment.
Chipotle's alleged inaction violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, EEOC said. Among other things, the law requires employers to investigate and address complaints of workplace sexual harassment.
The allegations are not the first to claim Chipotle mishandled sexual harassment claims. In 2019, the restaurant paid $95,000 to settle a suit alleging a worker was locked in a freezer after reporting sexual harassment. The restaurant made another payout of $70,000 last year to settle an EEOC charge that it fired a worker for reporting a colleague's sexual misconduct.
To prevent such claims, experts often recommend organizations bulk up on compliance training, especially for managers and supervisors. EEOC recommends employers train those investigating complaints to be objective and prompt.
In addition to compliance, employers may want to focus on culture. Employers build a culture of trust when they demonstrate their willingness to take complaints seriously, HR pros previously told HR Dive; a consistent, calm reaction to alleged misconduct will encourage workers to report bad behavior to HR, which may allow organizations to prevent future misconduct.