Published On: Wed, Apr 18th, 2012

Burger King Franchisee Settles EEOC Sexual Harassment Suit

By The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,

Kaizen Restaurants, Inc., which operates dozens of Burger King restaurants in Oregon and Washington, has agreed to pay $150,000 and implement preventive measures to resolve a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.  The lawsuit charged that Kaizen allowed a supervisor to sexually harass a teen employee working at her first job.

According to the EEOC, for nearly two years, a teenaged crew member at the Sandy, Ore., Burger King was relentlessly pursued by her older, married supervisor with unwelcome sexual comments and touching.  He would discuss her virginity, demand that she have sex with him and other male employees, and ask how much she would charge for sex.  He also ordered her not to tell management about his behavior, and frequently followed her around the store and into the parking lot on breaks.  The young woman’s complaints to management were ignored and finally she felt compelled to quit for her own safety.

“What I had to face at work every day was humiliating and wrong,” said the worker, who was 17 years old when she started working there.  “I just wanted to come to work and do a good job, but I wasn’t allowed to.  I’m glad to be able to put this all behind me now.”

Sexual harassment violates Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964.  After an investigation by EEOC Investigator Bryne Moore and first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through conciliation, the EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. Kaizen Restaurants, Inc, 11-CV-01181-KI.) in U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon.  Under the consent decree settling the suit, approved by Judge Garr M. King, Kaizen will pay the employee $150,000 and will adopt a comprehensive non-discrimination policy and complaint procedure, conduct training for staff and management officials and submit semi-annual reports to the EEOC detailing any complaints of sexual harassment that may have arisen in the prior six-month period.

“This case involved serious allegations of sexual harassment and the failure to protect a young worker,” said EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo, whose office has jurisdiction over Oregon.  “Companies across this region must realize that they will be held liable for the mistreatment of their employees by their managers.”

Michael Baldonado, director of the EEOC’s San Francisco District, which includes Oregon, said, “Kaizen has taken the allegations in this lawsuit seriously and has agreed to provide monetary and injunctive relief.  It is our hope that this settlement will make Burger King a safer place to work at this particular location, as well as at Kaizen’s other locations.”

According to company information, Beaverton, Ore.-based Kaizen operates about 30 Burger King restaurants in the Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash., areas, and has about 1,000 employees.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.  Additional information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.

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