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P.F. Chang's faces new sexual harassment claims by female workers

P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc. is facing new litigation brought by female employees who claim they were sexually harassed at work.

Two women who worked at P.F. Chang’s restaurants in Carlsbad and La Jolla were awarded nearly $500,000 each in arbitration against the company in 2014. They claimed they were repeatedly sexually harassed.

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Since then, at least four more women have filed claims against the company, saying they were sexually harassed at restaurants in Anaheim, Chino Hills, Beverly Hills and Riverside. The women used the arbitration process required by their employment contracts, which barred them from taking action in court.

Their San Diego law firm, Hogue & Belong, also is representing a fifth woman who was 16 when she signed on with P.F. Chang’s in Beverly Hills in 2012.

The law firm has successfully argued that she was not of legal age to give consent to the arbitration requirement, and her case is proceeding in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The restaurant is seeking to enforce the arbitration clause.

During her two years of employment, the young woman says she was harassed and sexually assaulted. She was fired in 2014.

P.F. Chang’s provided a statement in response to the San Diego Union-Tribune’s request for comment: “While we can’t comment on pending litigation, we can tell you that P.F. Chang’s is committed to providing a workplace free of any type of unlawful harassment or discrimination.”

Tyler J. Belong, one of the women’s attorneys, said the new round of claims is alarming and surprising, given the outcome of the arbitration in 2014.

According to complaints filed on behalf of the five women, supervisors and co-workers subjected them to unwanted sexual attention, simulated sex with them when they were bent over or not looking, tried to kiss them and touched them inappropriately.

The young woman who worked for P.F. Chang’s at 16 claims a male co-worker once grabbed her hand and forced it down the front of his pants, according to her complaint. On another occasion, a co-worker slapped her in the face, her lawsuit alleges.

Read more here.

Morgan Cook writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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