- Chipotle will pay $70,000 to settle charges of sexual harassment and retaliation brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to an Aug. 9 press release from the agency.
- A Chipotle worker in Tampa made sexually offensive remarks about another worker's body, EEOC charged. The misconduct grew to include inappropriate touching.
- Chipotle is no stranger to lawsuits, but past litigation against the Mexican chain has largely centered on food safety issues and overtime disputes.
A sexual harassment case could hurt Chipotle's brand halo — especially since the worker whom the behavior targeted reported her colleagues' actions to management several times. Eventually, she said she planned to elevate the issue to corporate headquarters, and she was fired three days later, EEOC said.
An alleged lack of management intervention could potentially reflect a culture issue at the particular store, but there have also been at least one previous sexual harrassment suit against the chain in the past two years. Chipotle paid $95,000 to settle that case with the EEOC.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of several protected characteristics, including sex. Title VII also outlaws harassment, including sexual harassment.
Per EEOC, harassment is "unwelcome conduct" that is related to one of the protected characteristics set up by Title VII and other employment laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Harassment is unlawful when it is so severe that it creates a hostile work environment or when it becomes a condition of continued employment. Harassment can come from a range of people, including a supervisor, a coworker, a client or a customer.
In this instance, the worker's harassment charge was accompanied by a retaliation claim. This is common, according to EEOC officials; the agency receives more retaliation claims than any other type of allegation. In FY 2020, for example, the agency received more than 37,000 charges of retaliation. Its next highest category? Disability discrimination, which totaled 24,324 charges.
Sources say HR professionals can minimize the possibility of retaliation by taking complaints seriously. This may have other positive effects; by creating a robust and reliable reporting process, employers can identify and address misconduct scenarios before they get out of control.
Emma Liem Beckett contributed to this article.