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California

Federal lawsuit claims young female employees were harassed at Del Taco restaurants

IRVINE NOVEMBER 15, 2012: The exterior of the newly re-designed Del Taco in Irvine on November 15,
A Del Taco restaurant in Irvine is shown. The chain is facing a sexual harassment lawsuit after employees at a Del Taco in Rancho Cucamonga were accused of unwanted comments and touching.
(Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

The Del Taco fast-food chain is being sued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on allegations of allowing male supervisors to sexually harass young female employees since 2014, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court on Monday.

For years, the young women at a Del Taco in Rancho Cucamonga were subjected to a culture of harassment created primarily by leaders at the fast-food eatery, according to the lawsuit.

In June 2018, one female employee came forward and reported the harassment to human resources, the EEOC and a company hotline. But even after the EEOC notified the restaurant of the accusations and gave it time to address the problems internally, the harassment continued, the lawsuit claims. Supervisors are also accused of retaliating against the female employees by shifting and reducing their work hours.

After the EEOC began investigating the young woman’s claims at the Rancho Cucamonga restaurant and others in the area, they found five other female employees, most of whom were between the ages of 16 and 18, who had suffered sexual harassment and are now plaintiffs in the lawsuit, EEOC spokeswoman Nicole St. Germain said.

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The young woman who came forward had been subjected to harassment for at least a year, St. Germain said.

“It looks like she tried everything she could to correct what was going on,” St. Germain said. “Some individuals felt they had no choice but to quit.”

On Monday, the company issued the following statement: “Del Taco takes this matter very seriously and we are currently investigating the allegations that have been brought to our attention. Based on the findings of that investigation, we will take action as appropriate. Del Taco is committed to providing a safe environment for all employees and customers, free from harassment of any kind. ”

The complaint outlines harassment primarily by a shift leader and general manager at the restaurant. Both men would look at female employees up and down, making them feel uncomfortable and violated, according to the complaint. Both men made comments toward female employees about their appearance and their bodies, calling them “pretty” and “sexy.”

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The shift leader is accused of rubbing the arm of one employee as he told her she was doing a good job, and holding onto female employees’ hips and shoulders. He would also quote vulgar songs to one employee and asked another girl to “dance for me, baby,” according to the complaint.

The general manager allegedly spoke openly about his sex life with multiple girlfriends to female cashiers, talked about female employees’ breasts to other female employees and patted employees’ backs without their consent.

One young woman said a male coworker made similar harassing comments, and asked her out on dates repeatedly.

“Younger employees are a highly vulnerable segment of the workforce and may be easy targets for harassers,” said Rosa Viramontes, director of EEOC’s Los Angeles district. “Employers need to understand that they may be especially liable to experience such abuse, especially when the misconduct is committed by those to whom they have delegated authority.”

alejandra.reyesvelarde@latimes.com

Twitter: @r_valejandra


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