Teenage Girls Sue Fast Food Chains for Sexual Harassment

Teenage fast food workers are especially vulnerable to sexual harassment by co-workers or supervisors.

Some of the top complaints include unwanted sexual advances, retaliation, unwanted groping or physical touching, lurid comments, and quid pro quo sex advances.

Indeed, some 40 percent of all female fast-food workers including teens reported sexual harassment on the job, according to the Washington, D.C. firm Hart Research Associates. Also, those who report the most violations are women who are African-American and Latina.

“Unlike more savvy adults, teenagers don’t often know right from wrong,” said Attorney James Johnson. “They are still living with their parents and attending school where they are required to follow the rules and don’t typically question authority. Most don’t know what acceptable workplace behavior is and they are not likely to read training manuals.”

Here are some examples of recent situations faced by teenagers and young adults while working in the fast food industry.

McDonalds Restaurants

Teenager workers were among the female McDonalds employees claiming the burger chain has done nothing to protect them at either franchise and corporate-owned restaurants. Furthermore, the fast food chain’s corporate lawyers argue the company is not responsible or liable for worker conditions at the 14,000-plus, independently owned franchises.

Many workers who complained about supervisors were denied promotions or had their work hours reduced. Others say they were removed from manager training programs that would enable them to advance at the company.

Then on the anniversary of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s downfall due to sexual assault allegations, a group of McDonald’s workers from 10 cities in the United States protested sexual harassment and went on strike. They also filed a sexual harassment lawsuit in 2020 against McDonalds with the EEOC. Jamelia Fairley and Ashley Reddick were named in the lawsuit representing some 5,000 women from over 100 US McDonald’s restaurants.

In-N-Out Burger

A former In-N-Out Burger employee filed a lawsuit against the Irvine, Calif.-based fast-food chain. The worker alleges that the company shorted employees’ pay, never addressed reported sexual harassment incidents and then retaliated against workers that complained about inadequate COVID-19 protection.

Del Taco

Young women and teens working at the Del Taco fast-food chain recently won a sexual harassment lawsuit against the Lake Forest, Calif.-based restaurant company. Female employees at the company’s Rancho Cucamonga stores alleged both sexual harassment and retaliation against the Mexican-American food chain.

These workers alleged their male general manager and shift leaders harassed them with vulgar comments, unwelcome physical contact as well as sex propositions. The young women noted that male co-workers felt emboldened to also felt free to sexually harass them. They allege that Del Taco’s human resources department failed to protect or respond adequately to their complaints. Also, the harassment never stopped and female workers say there was retaliation against them. Many of the victims quite due to the hostile work environment.

The $1,250,000 settlement also includes agreements on Del Taco’s part to follow protocols to prevent workplace harassment and retaliation.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against the fast food chain. The EEOC alleges sexual harassment and retaliation against Del Taco’s female employees.

Taco Bell

A female worker reported a former Taco Bell manager to police after he allegedly kissed and groped her at the fast food restaurant. State College police charged the man.

She and the 33-year-old Mifflin County man were putting out the garbage together when he allegedly cornered her and forced a kiss on her, police said in their report.

Following the incident, the female employee went inside the restaurant, and gathered her belongings to leave when the man inappropriately touched her, police said. The employee responded by hitting the manager in the face, police wrote.

Another teenager in Garden City, Kan. sued Taco Bell alleging she was sexually harassed on the job.

A male coworker reportedly made “unwelcome and demeaning sexual comments to her” and told her he wanted to have sex with both her and her 13-year-old sister. The victim was allegedly grabbed, kissed, and fondled by the male worker. Managers at the fast food restaurant failed to address her complaints and she quit because they didn’t protect her.

Sonic Drive In

A Sonic Drive In co-manager received a promotion amid reports of sexual harassment and other claims from at least three female teenage car hop workers. The female employees complained to the fast food chain’s management about the hostile work environment created by this male manager. On a daily basis, they endured crude sexual comments, propositions and unwelcome physical touching. Yet management failed to take remedial actions. As a slap in the face, the company promoted the male co-manager.

A lawsuit was filed by EEOC against SDI of Mineola, LLC, doing business as Sonic Drive-In. Attorneys for the EEOC stated that the teenage girls were robbed of their innocence and suffered lasting psychological harm due to this experience. Oftentimes, these young women will turn down opportunities to avoid working under male supervisors again.

California Employment Law Attorney

James Johnson - California Employment Law

Teenage girls and women should never have to endure sexual harassment in the workplace. In fact, the State of California labor laws protect vulnerable restaurant employees. These laws also ensure workers are paid minimum wage, overtime, receive uninterrupted meal breaks and therefore not be mistreated by management. It doesn’t matter whether it’s sexual assault, lost overtime wages, garnishing of tips or any other Labor Code violation.

If you have suffered sexual harassment or other abuses by a supervisor or co-worker, we urge you to speak to a qualified employment law attorney about your rights. You may contact Johnson Attorneys Group to request a free consultation at 855-918-2240.