- Del Taco has agreed to pay $1.25 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging sexual harassment and retaliation against female employees, according to a press release.
- According the the lawsuit, a general manager and shift leader at its Rancho Cucamonga, California, stores sexually harassed young female workers almost daily with unwelcome physical contact, vulgar comments and propositions for sex. The EEOC said that the behavior was so rampant that other male employees felt they could also engage in the harassment as well. When the workers complained to human resources, the agency said Del Taco failed to adequately respond to their complaints. Some workers felt they had no choice but to quit.
- While Del Taco was initially sued in 2018 related to these allegations, sexual harassment remains a common problem in the restaurant space, especially in fast food, where workers are often subject to hostility from both managers and customers. McDonald’s, for example, is facing a $500 million class action lawsuit filed in April related to pervasive sexual harassment of female employees.
Del Taco's deal at $1.25 million is among the largest financially of the year for sexual harassment cases based on a search of EEOC database in 2020.
While the fast food chain doesn’t appear to have any other recent settlements with the EEOC, there have been several sexual harassment cases with the agency this year, including a $75,000 payment by a Cincinnati-area restaurant group, a $50,000 payout from Sol Mexican Grill, a $70,000 settlement from IHOP franchisee Swami Pancake and a $175,000 payment from Carmel Restaurants. Pei Wei Fresh Kitchen also settled a case in February for $300,000 for failing to respond to a sexually hostile work environment.
In addition to these monetary funds, these restaurants have to provide anti-harassment training to employees. Del Taco specifically agreed to a three-year consent decree, which includes companywide injunctive relief aimed at preventing workplace harassment and retaliation.
The company will need to retain an EEO monitor, review and revise policies and procedures on discrimination, harassment and retaliation and create a structure for employees to report discrimination and harassment. The company also must train all employees on anti-discrimination laws, with an emphasis on sexual harassment.
While training will help the situation going forward, this will likely not be the last case or settlement regarding sexual harassment. McDonald’s, which has been hit by several sexual harassment and discrimination cases within the last year, instititued anti-harassment training for 850,000 employees October 2019. According to a 2016 survey by Hart Research Associates, 40% of women fast food workers said they have experienced sexual harassment while on the job. During the pandemic, those numbers have risen, per a study by One Fair Wage. The report found that 41% of restaurant workers saw a noticeable change in the frequency of unwanted sexualized comments from customers, and 25% said they have experienced or witnessed a "significant" change in the frequency of such sexual harassment.