Panda Express Agrees to Early Settlement with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to Resolve Sexual Harassment Suit
Teens at Quick Service Restaurant Chain in Hawaii Were Physically Groped and Demeaned by Supervisor, Federal Agency Says
Chinese quick service restaurant giant Panda Express will pay $150,000 to settle an EEOC lawsuit on behalf of at least three female teenagers who were allegedly sexually harassed between 2007 and 2009 while working in a restaurant in Kauai, Hawaii, the federal agency announced today.
According to the EEOC, one male kitchen supervisor at the Panda Express in Kapaa, Kauai, sexually harassed some females on staff over four years ago. The supervisor subjected the workers, some of whom were between the ages of 17 and 19, to sexual comments, language and advances, the EEOC said. Upon reporting the harassment to the general manager, the EEOC said, Panda Express management failed to take enough action to stop or correct the situation.
Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in September 2012 in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii (EEOC v. Panda Express, Inc. and Panda Restaurant Groups, Inc., Case No. 1:12-cv-00530-SOM-RLP) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. As part of the settlement announced today, the parties entered into a two-year consent decree requiring Panda Express to designate an in-house equal employment opportunity (EEO) coordinator; revise and distribute its anti-harassment policy and procedures; and provide annual sexual harassment training to all employees in Kapaa and to all general managers in the state of Hawaii. EEOC will monitor compliance with the agreement, and Panda Express agreed to reinforce its protocols relating to complaints of sexual harassment in its Hawaii region.
"We commend Panda Express for working with the EEOC to correct serious lapses in dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace," said Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for the EEOC's Los Angeles District Office, which includes Hawaii in its jurisdiction. "We trust that Panda Express's company values are consistent with the goals of the EEOC's mission, and we commend them for agreeing to broader injunctive remedies to ensure that the workers in Hawaii are protected."
Timothy Riera, local director for the EEOC's Honolulu Local Office, added, "We encourage employers to conduct meaningful training of its employees on what the policies and procedures are with respect to sexual harassment. Those who exercise their right to report sexual harassment and discrimination at work are also protected from illegal retaliation. The EEOC is certainly here to help, especially when employers fail to meet their legal obligation to protect our youngest workers."
According to the company website, www.pandaexpress.com, Rosemead, Calif.-based Panda Restaurant Group, Inc. manages and owns over 1,600 restaurants in 42 states.
The EEOC recently updated its Youth@Work website (at http://www.eeoc.gov/youth/), which presents information for teens and other young workers about employment discrimination. The website also contains curriculum guides for students and teachers and videos to help young workers learn about their rights and responsibilities in the work force.