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PRESS RELEASE
12-23-09

Jack In The Box Sued For Sexual Harassment

EEOC Says Paradise Restaurant Manager Subjected Women to Abuse

SAN FRANCISCO — Jack in the Box franchisee Kobra Associates, Inc., which operates about 70 restaurants in Northern and Eastern California, violated federal law by allowing a manager at its Paradise, Calif., store to sexually harass female employees under his supervision, according to a federal lawsuit filed yesterday by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the harassment by the Jack in the Box restaurant manager included frequent remarks about female employees’ anatomy and unwelcome sexual advances and innuendos. The agency’s investigation found that he would refer to women as “bitches,” “sluts” and “whores,” as well as ogle and touch them inappropriately. Despite complaints, including messages left with Jack in the Box’s ethics hotline, the EEOC says, the company failed to take corrective action. Faced with ongoing harassment after a year of raising the issue to the company through multiple avenues, one woman was forced to resign in order to escape the targeted attention of the restaurant manager, the EEOC said.

Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Kobra Associates, Inc. d/b/a Jack in the Box) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California only after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement. The EEOC is seeking monetary relief, including emotional distress and punitive damages, on behalf of the women affected by the harassment, in addition to injunctive relief to prevent a recurrence of this type of discrimination.

EEOC Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo noted, “With a tight job market, it is especially vital that the EEOC protect the rights of all employees to work in an environment free from sexual harassment or other illegal forms of harassment. The pressure on workers to keep whatever job they have does not ease the responsibility of employers to take every complaint of harassment seriously.”

EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado said, “As they say, ‘Don’t put a fox in to guard a henhouse.’ Employers, make sure you can trust your supervisors to enforce your anti-harassment stance, and check that the channels for employees to report harassment problems don’t short-circuit just because a harasser has influence in the chain of command.”

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