Chipotle Mexican Grill, an American fast food chain, is paying a former worker $95,000 (INR 68 Lakhs approx) in lost wages and damages to settle a case where the man said his female boss sexually harassed him and made his life miserable after he complained.
- Austin Melton’s (victim) female general manager at a Chipotle in San Jose, California, allegedly slapped, groped, and grabbed [his] buttocks and groin area numerous times, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) lawsuit filed on his behalf
- The EEOC announced the settlement in December this year
- Apart from the payout to Melton, Chipotle Mexican Grill will also have to carry out extra anti-harassment training for 27 stores in San Jose and the surrounding area
- According to the 2017 lawsuit filed in the Northern District of California, the unnamed female manager allegedly propositioned Melton, then 22, and used ‘vegetables to simulate sex acts’
- She also allegedly sent him and other employees Instagram direct messages of herself clad in her underwear
- The manager allegedly kept a ‘sex scoreboard’ in her office where she tallied which workers had sex the previous night
- The filing said that the woman allegedly ridiculed those who replied NO
What Melton Went Through
- Melton, who worked for the Mexican food chain three years before his April 2015 transfer to the store in question, complained to other staffers
- He was allegedly was ostracised later
- For example, co-workers once allegedly locked him in a walk-in freezer and Melton escaped through an emergency exit
- On another occasion, they allegedly moved his motorcycle and laughed at him
- The general manager allegedly screamed at Melton during a meeting on his harassment complaints and another time, she hit him on the head with a pan
- Melton left the job in October 2015 because he was fed up with the treatment
After winning the lawsuit, in a statement to the press, Melton said,
This was my first job after high school, and it was hard to speak up about the harassment to management and then to the EEOC. But it was the right thing to do. I hope this settlement will help to make the restaurants a better and safer workplace for everyone.
Restaurant’s Reaction & Response
- Chipotle did not respond to any media queries, neither did they admit any liability on Melton’s allegations in settlement documents
- While Chipotle is not the only food service employer facing sexual harassment claims, the twist on Melton’s case is the fact it’s a man complaining about a woman’s conduct
- McDonald’s too, is facing several lawsuits in which female workers have alleged harassment from male bosses
- Since the harassment was alleged by women, McDonalds had acknowledged and promptly implemented training to prevent harassment
- The EEOC’s statistics show men typically file just over 15% of sexual harassment complaints with the workplace regulator
- Between 2010 and 2018, the share of sexual harassment complaints filed by men remained relatively steady, ranging from 15.9% to 17.8%
- But EEOC statistics show overall harassment claims are on the rise after the #MeToo campaign, where allegations are mostly against a male superior on a female staffer
- Some observers have mentioned that complaints from men add nuance to the current moment
- While many have acknowledged that the accused harassers of men can also be men
- The crux of the matter is whoever’s stepping out of line, harassment still boils down to an abuse of power and it’s crucial to believe accusers
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