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Young Workers in the Fast Food Industry at Risk--Sexual Harassment in McDonald's and Taco Bell

February 5, 2010

In Monday's blog, our California Employment Attorneys discussed a recent episode of the news program 20/20, that reported on a number of teenage sexual harassment lawsuits pending against fast food restaurants such as McDonald's and Taco Bell--where high school students have reported sexual advances from their bosses or supervisors.

In one case against the fast food giant McDonald's, 16 year old employee Kasey Ramirez was reportedly approached by her supervisor, and taken into a back room, where she was touched inappropriately. Ramirez stated that she was scared that he would rape her, so she ran out and reported the sexual harassment to another shift supervisor. The supervisor reportedly told Ramirez not to be so upset, because everyone knew that this particular supervisor was a "pervert."

McDonald's stated that they have a strict policy prohibiting any type of harassment in their restaurants. After the incident with Ramirez in 2007, McDonald's claimed to have responded swiftly to the sexual harassment charge and proved to have taken the necessary actions to resolve the case.

In another sexual harassment case in Memphis, Tennessee, a Taco Bell manager pleaded guilty to raping two of his high school workers who were both 16. One of these workers became pregnant from the rape. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) the first victim worked with the manager for nearly two months before she was raped. The second victim was attacked on her first day on the job. Although Taco Bell denied any wrongdoing, they agreed to pay the teens several thousand dollars, and signed on to train managers on how to appropriately deal with teenage employees.

According to William Cash, an EEOC trial attorney, employers who choose to hire teenage employees have a huge responsibility to protect the young workers. Employers make large profits based on the work of high school students, provide them with a safe workplace that is free from inappropriate touching and rape.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is illegal to harass or discriminate against teenage employees based on race, gender color, sex (including pregnancy), national origin or age, in hiring, firing, training, wages, benefits and promotions.

At Howard Law, PC, our Anaheim-based employment and labor lawyers believe that teenage employees are entitled to a workplace free from unlawful discrimination and violations of employment and labor laws. If you or someone you know has been harassed in the workplace in Orange County and throughout Southern California, contact our attorneys today.

16-year-old Starbucks Barista Sues Over "Sex Demands" at Work, ABC News, January 22, 2010

Woman Sues Starbucks Over Underage Sex, The Orange County Register, January 25, 2010

EEOC: Industry Sued Most in Claims of Teen Harassment, Nation's Restaurant News, February 5, 2007

Related Web Resources:

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Youth at Work: Your Rights