On June 13, 2018, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) announced that it filed seven lawsuits nationwide, charging employers with verbal and/or sexual harassment, including two suits against employers in Southern California.
Included in the EEOC’s press release, the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office filed a lawsuit against Sierra Creative Systems for failure to prevent and correct the ongoing sexual harassment, sex-based harassment, and retaliation against female employees. The suit alleged a supervisor rubbed the backs and “accidentally” grazed the breasts of female employees at work. In addition to physical harassment, the EEOC claimed the women were subject to repeated verbal sexual harassment including being called useless, stupid, and ignorant, as well as ‘whores’ and ‘sluts’. Employees who reported the harassment claim to have been subjected to retaliation by being demoted after they filed internal reports regarding the alleged conduct by the supervisor.
Further, the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office and its San Diego Local Office also charged Tapioca Express, a milk tea company with Los Angeles and San Diego franchisees, for subjecting female employees to inappropriate touching and sexual comments. Specifically, according to the press release, the owner of two of the franchisees harassed female employees by inappropriately touching them and making repeated comments of a sexual nature. The EEOC said that the owner wrapped his arms around women, physically pressed up against them, and made inappropriate comments about body attributes. The lawsuit further alleges the defendants failed to prevent and correct harassment despite numerous complaints, causing female employees to quit. These lawsuits come after a meeting held by the EEOC’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workforce. That meeting delved into workplace harassment in light of the #MeToo movement, and discussed how employers can and have worked to better prevent and stop harassment.
COUNSEL TO MANAGEMENT:
In California, employers are not only subject to federal EEOC regulations, but also to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the state agency charged with protecting Californians from unlawful discrimination in employment. The EEOC’s filing of the seven harassment suits indicates that the agency will be increasingly focusing its limited time and resources scrutinizing the allegedly harassing conduct of employers going forward, especially as the #MeToo movement is at the forefront of the current social justice agenda. If you have any questions about how this recent federal enforcement of harassment may affect your company, or about sexual harassment and discrimination claims, please contact the experts at The Saqui Law Group.