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Panda Express to pay $150,000 after an EEOC investigation into sexual harassment

Panda Express, a Chinese fast food restaurant with 1,547 locations throughout the United States must pay $150,000 to settle an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) lawsuit on behalf of 3 female teenagers who were allegedly sexually harassed while working in a Kauai, Hawaii restaurant.

According to the EEOC, a male kitchen supervisor, sexually harassed some of the female staff.  The supervisor subjected the female employees, 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 is a violation of  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).  As part of the settlement, the parties have entered into a 2-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.  EEOC will monitor compliance with the agreement, and Panda Express agreed to reinforce its protocols relating to complaints of sexual harassment.

"We commend Panda Express for working with the EEOC to correct serious issues 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."

If you have suffered harassment or discrimination in the workplace, please give California Employment Attorney, Todd M. Friedman a call at (877) 449-8898 for a free consultation.

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