The fast-food chain Del Taco has settled a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over its handling of sexual harassment claims, agreeing to pay $1.25 million and accept a consent decree to provide companywide training on anti-discrimination laws to guard against harassment and retaliation.
The consent decree, filed on Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, also stipulated that the company must retain an E.E.O.C. monitor for workplace discrimination, review its policies on workplace discrimination, and create and maintain a system for tracking harassment complaints.
The agency sued Del Taco in 2018 on behalf of a group of employees, all young women, who stated that at least three men they had worked with at Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., area locations, some in supervisory roles, directed sexual comments at them almost daily and touched them inappropriately. Some of the women lodged formal complaints with the company, either with its human resources department or its toll-free number, but no action was taken.
According to the E.E.O.C.’s suit, the company retaliated by reducing the hours one of the women was scheduled to work. She and others in the suit resigned from their jobs because of the hostile work environment created by the comments and the inappropriate behavior.
Del Taco Restaurants acknowledged the settlement in a statement, writing: “The safety and well-being of our employees are always top priorities, and we take any harassment allegations very seriously. We fully cooperated with the E.E.O.C. throughout its investigation and the matter has been resolved. In addition, we completed an internal investigation and took appropriate measures. We remain committed to providing a safe environment for all employees and customers, free from harassment of any kind.”
The terms of the consent decree will stay in effect for three years, and Del Taco must post a laminated notice about the terms of the decree in all of its approximately 600 locations in 16 states. The external monitor will also conduct audits to determine whether supervisors and managers are encouraging employees to report instances of harassment.
“Young employees may be especially vulnerable to workplace harassment,” Rosa Viramontes, the director of the E.E.O.C.’s Los Angeles district office, said in a news release. “It is important for employers to recognize this and create policies and practices that ensure a safe and harassment-free work environment.”