A service manager at a Chipotle in Florida was fired after complaining about sexual assault, according to a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The federal agency said the employee's initial complaints about a co-worker's sexual harassment went unaddressed by the company. When she later complained that the harassment had escalated to sexual assault, the store's general manager assured her that they would take the appropriate steps to investigate and resolve the complaint.
About five days later, the alleged victim told the general manager that she needed to escalate her complaints to the corporate office. However, the employee who made the complaint was fired three days for failings, which the EEOC established, were the responsibility of someone else. The EEOC has asked that the employee be given back pay, compensatory as well as punitive damages.
Chipotle and Employment Lawsuits
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Chipotle has been on a hiring spree in 2020. In the summer, the restaurant chain announced plans to hire 10,000 more employees. In July, the company said it had received 700,000 job applications. Still, the company has also faced allegations of employment law violations.
In January, the company settled claims of violating child labor laws for $1.4 million. In February, it agreed to reinstate an employee who alleged she was fired for using paid sick leave under New York City law. The company also agreed to pay $2,500 in restitution and remove disciplinary marks from that employee's record.
And last year, Chipotle settled an EEOC lawsuit alleging that a worker had been locked in a freezer after reporting harassment. At the time, the restaurant chain agreed to make a number of changes to its sexual harassment policies, procedures and trainings for 27 of its California restaurants. While Chipotle did not admit to wrongdoing as part of that sexual harassment settlement, it did agree to enhanced accountability and oversight of managers and supervisors and promised to provide anti-discrimination training to its leadership as well as employees.
Retaliation for Filing a Complaint
The Civil Rights Act protects employees from sexual harassment in the workplace. There are also laws that protect employees from retaliation, which occurs when an employer punishes an employee for filing complaints over sexual harassment or discrimination in the workplace. There are a number of federal and state laws that protect against retaliation and establish the rights of whistleblowers, employees who file complaints about unsafe workplaces or illegal activity in workplaces.
Retaliation can manifest in a number of ways including a demotion, reduction in salary, firing, denial of a raise or promotion, missed training opportunities, job reassignment, change in schedule, poor performance reviews, exclusion from staff activities, etc. While some forms of retaliation are obvious, others are subtler. For example, an employer could transfer an employee to a different office, which might mean an inconvenient or impossible change in schedule or a longer commute. Such actions might make an employee's life difficult and may sometimes force an employee to quit his or her job.
Any negative action from an employer after an employee has filed a harassment claim could be viewed as retaliation. The EEOC deems such retaliation as unlawful, regardless of whether the claim was true or if it was made in good faith. The employer is not legally justified to retaliate against an employee's complaint regardless of whether or not it has been proven to be true.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
If you have been retaliated against because you filed a sexual harassment complaint or any other complaint alleging illegal activities in the workplace or unsafe conditions, you have legal rights. Our experienced Los Angeles sexual harassment attorneys will remain on your side, fight for your rights and help ensure that you receive fair and full compensation for your losses. Call us today to find out how we can help you.