Chipotle last week agreed to pay $400,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by three former crew members—including one who was just 17 years old at the time—who said they were sexually harassed by their manager and a co-worker.
The lawsuit, which was filed in March 2022 by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington state, involved alleged behavior by a 29-year-old service manager and 24-year-old co-worker at a Chipotle restaurant in Sammamish, Wash.
The EEOC said Chipotle allowed harassment that included the manager sexually assaulting an underage employee and touching another worker’s buttocks. The manager also made unwelcome sexual comments and requests for sex, and temporarily blocked workers from exiting the restaurant’s walk-in refrigerator, causing them to fear for their safety.
According to the EEOC, the Newport Beach, Calif.-based chain did not adequately investigate the complaints and did not take adequate remedial measures to stop the harassment.
Laurie Schalow, Chipotle’s chief corporate affairs officer, said in a statement that the chain does not admit any wrongdoing with the settlement.
“However, we chose to settle the matter to avoid the distraction of continued litigation,” she said. “It is our policy that all employees take anti-harassment training, and moving forward we will be providing additional training within a patch of restaurants and to our Respectful Workplace Hotline team.”
The additional training will be applied to workers and managers at seven Washington restaurants, including Bellevue, Redmond, Issaquah and Sammamish.
Under a three-year consent decree settling the lawsuit, Chipotle will appoint an internal consent decree coordinator to review, revise and implement anti-discriminatory policies and procedures designed to prevent harassment and also retaliation, the EEOC said.
Chipotle also will train human resource officials on how to investigate such harassment, and will adopt policies holding supervisors and managers accountable for their compliance, the agency said.
“It’s not enough for an employer to have a policy against sexual harassment,” said Nancy Sienko, director of the EEOC’s San Francisco district, which includes Washington state, in a statement. “The employer and its managers must follow through on that policy by thoroughly responding to reports of harassment by either forwarding the report to HR or investigating the harassment complaint and taking effective action to end a hostile work environment.”
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