As many of you may recall that have heard me speak either in a seminar or as a guest speaker I have always stressed that mangers or supervisors have to “take every complaint seriously!” The Cheesecake Factory learned this lesson the hard way to the tune of $345,000 that they will have to pay six male employees (yes males, not females!) who allegedly were sexually harassed and assaulted by other male employees at one of their restaurants.
The payment settles a lawsuit filed in 2008 by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which claimed that Cheesecake Factory knew about and tolerated repeated sexual assaults against the six men by a group of other men who worked in the kitchen. The EEOC said the evidence “overwhelmingly showed that the abusers touched the victims inappropriately, made sexually charged remarks and forced the victims into repeated incidents of simulated rape.” Managers, according to the EEOC, also witnessed employees “dragging the men kicking and screaming into a refrigerated room.” Apparently the victims complained to managers, who never stopped the abusive behavior. One victim even called the police but no charges were ever filed.
The Cheescake factory, through their legal spokesperson denied the allegations stating that “Actions of this nature are not tolerated by us.” The consent degree did not assign any liability but the company decided to settle the matter due to the high cost of litigation. In addition to the monetary relief, the Cheesecake Factory will have to train their employees and managers about sexual harassment and they must assign an ombudsperson to field and address complaints about sexual harassment.
What a waste of money! Currently I have done pretty close to 150 seminars this year on AB1825, the mandatory sexual harassment training required by California. For those of you that have already completed the training know that I have been emphasizing that managers cannot ignore complaints or inappropriate behavior. This is a classic example of managers not taking this kind of behavior seriously.
As a final point, if you have not completed the training for this year you have to get it done by December 31. This is the mandatory year. Don’t think that if you had the training anytime last year that you are covered. You are not!!