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Press Release 03-09-2022

EEOC Sues Chipotle for Sexual Harassment, Constructive Discharge

Supervisors Repeatedly Ignored Young Workers’ Reports of Sexual Harassment, Federal Agency Charges

SEATTLE — Fast food chain Chipotle Services LLC and Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., violated federal law by subjecting young female employees to egregious and ongoing sexual harassment from October 2019 to June 2020, severe enough to force two employees to leave their jobs, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Chipotle cultivated a toxic work environment when it allowed a male service manager and a male crew member to sexually harass several young female employees at its Sammamish store.

In 2019, a 29-year-old service manager began to target a 16-year-old worker with unwelcome sexual comments, touching, and requests for sex. After a different service manager reported her concerns with the 29-year-old service manager’s behavior, the general manager failed to investigate and instead warned the teen she could be fired for engaging in an inappropriate relationship with the service manager. The general manager continued to schedule the teen to work a closing shift with the alleged harasser. Eventually, the service manager sexually assaulted the teenage worker and began subjecting others to harassment.

In 2020, Chipotle management again failed to take appropriate action upon receiving complaints of sexual harassment regarding a 24-year-old crew member who made comments about the bodies of several workers and referred to them with unwelcome nicknames like “mama,” “sweetheart,” and “baby girl.” Chipotle agreed to investigate their complaints but permitted the alleged harasser to return to the workplace where he angrily confronted those who had complained about the harassment. Fearing for their safety because of Chipotle's inaction, two workers quit.

Such conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires employers to investigate and take prompt and effective steps to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. The EEOC filed its lawsuit (EEOC v. Chipotle Services, LLC and Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., Case No. 2:22-cv-00279) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process. The EEOC seeks lost wages and monetary compensation for the emotional distress the workers suffered, punitive damages, and injunctive relief to ensure Chipotle's workers have adequate protection from sexual harassment in the future.

“This case involves workers in their teens and early 20s. These are their first impressions they will they form about the workplace, and it is devastating when an employer permits sexual harassment to continue despite repeated complaints,” said Nancy Sienko, director for the EEOC’s San Francisco District, which includes Washington state. “We want to send a clear and opposing message: every worker has a right to a workplace free from sexual harassment, and the EEOC will hold employers accountable.”

EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Carmen Flores said, “Teen workers comprise a large segment of the workforce in the fast food industry. Being new to the workplace and unfamiliar with their rights makes it that much harder for young workers to speak up against sexual harassment. The EEOC has made a priority of defending the civil rights of vulnerable workers such these young people, and will seek the full extent of legal relief on their behalf.”

The EEOC’s Select Task Force Report on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace provides a Chart of Risk Factors for Harassment and Responsive Strategies for ideas on how to reduce the risks of harassment given a young workforce and the isolation of closing or night shift.

Chipotle is a publicly traded restaurant chain with more than 2,500 locations across the United States, with corporate headquarters in Newport Beach, California.

The EEOC’s Seattle Field Office has jurisdiction over Western Washington.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information for teens and younger workers is available at Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.