Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Burger King Pays Teen Harassment Settlement

Should teenagers be subjected to sexual harassment at work?

The US EEOC says no and sued Burger King on behalf of an 18-year old worker whose manager subjected her to unwelcome touching, overt sexual advances, and frequent requests for sexual favors, according to the EEOC.

Burger King's assistant managers failed to stop the harassment or take appropriate action to do so after the young worker had reported the unlawful conduct, the EEOC said.

Burger King has elected to settle the suit rather than going to trial. Burger King will pay $85,000 in monetary damages, and the consent decree settling the suit prohibits Burger King from discriminating against any person on the basis of sex or any other protected group under the federal employment law, and from retaliating against anyone who complains about such discrimination. The agreement also requires training, and continued reports to the EEOC.

Federal law requires employers to take reasonable steps to eliminate sexual harassment once an employee complains,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District.

The EEOC will continue to be aggressive in litigating egregious harassment cases, especially where the employer’s failure to stop the harassment results in harm to a teenager or young adult," she added.

Assistant managers need to know that it is safe for them to go around their general manager to HR when the general manager is accused of harassment. Companies must not only adopt policies, but help to create a culture that values and rewards compliance with discrimination laws and holds managers accountable when they cross the line.

We must be vigilant about protecting our teenagers at work. Kudos to the EEOC for taking strong enforcement action on behalf of our kids.

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