Del Taco Settles Sexual Harassment Suit

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Lake Forest-based Del Taco Restaurants Inc. will pay $1.25 million and make changes to settle a lawsuit which alleged sexual harassment and retaliation against female employees at its Rancho Cucamonga-area stores, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced today.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Del Taco's general manager and shift leader at its Rancho Cucamonga eateries sexually harassed young female workers almost daily by subjecting them to unwelcome physical contact, vulgar comments and propositions for sex.

The federal agency alleged that the behavior was so prevalent that other male employees felt free to engage in sexual harassment, as well. When the female workers complained to Del Taco's human resources department, the company failed to respond adequately to their complaints or stop the harassment or retaliation, according to the EEOC, which said some workers felt they had to choice but to quit because of the hostile work environment.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination, including sexual harassment and retaliation. The EEOC said it filed suit in Los Angeles federal court after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process.

In addition to monetary relief, the three-year consent decree includes company-wide injunctive relief aimed at preventing workplace harassment and retaliation. Del Taco must retain an EEO monitor, review and revise its policies and procedures on discrimination, harassment and retaliation, and create a structure for employees to report discrimination and harassment. Del Taco also must provide training to all employees on anti-discrimination laws, with an emphasis on sexual harassment.

The decree will remain under the court's jurisdiction for the three-year term.

“Employers are encouraged to have strong systems in place to respond swiftly and effectively to harassment complaints -- particularly where the workforce consists of young workers,'' said Anna Park, regional attorney of the EEOC's Los Angeles District, which has jurisdiction over San Bernardino County.

Rosa Viramontes, district director of the Los Angeles district office, said, “Young employees may be especially vulnerable to workplace harassment. It is important for employers to recognize this and create policies and practices that ensure a safe and harassment-free work environment.''

Preventing workplace harassment through systemic litigation and investigation is one of the six national priorities identified by the commission's Strategic Enforcement Plan.

Photo: Getty Images

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