Mendota Restaurants has been ordered to pay $150,000 to 12 victims who endured sexual harassment by a Taco Bell store manager for over a year. The claim, which had been filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of the victims, included several cases of sexual assault, touching, sexual advances and comments. The EEOC also stated that the victims, most in their teens, had repeatedly complained about the sexual harassment, but the organization either fired them or drove them to resign. According to the lawsuit, the severe intensity of abuse made five of the 12 victims file complaints with the Mendota police department.

According to a statement issued by the lead trial attorney of the EEOC, the employers were aware of the sexual harassment but chose not to acknowledge the complaints until forced to do so. Employment discrimination laws are created to protect workers not only against harassment by management, but also against employers who choose to ignore it.

Apart from paying $150,000, Mendota Restaurants has also agreed to refrain from any kind of retaliation or discrimination. Further, it has agreed to hire a person to handle sexual harassment complaints for the next three years, to report all future complaints to the EEOC, to train all store employees and to distribute a statement about the settlement.

According to an EEOC regional attorney, sexual harassment of employees, especially young female restaurant workers, is taken seriously by the EEOC. Employers make a big mistake by ignoring it. They make a second mistake when they retaliate against employees who complain about workplace harassment or a hostile work environment. Retaliation, such as reduced working hours, assigning worst shifts and termination, violates Title VII.

Source: HR.BLR.com, “Mendota Taco Bell pays $150,000 for sexual harassment,” Jan. 25, 2013