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Monday, September 7, 2009

Taco Bell Settles: Sexual Offender Manager Assaulted Teen Employees


Alabama@Work

Tommy Eden, Attorney


Reprint O&A News 9-06-09
Taco Bell Corporation agreed last week to pay $350,000 to two teenage female employees to resolve a sexual harassment lawsuit. The lawsuit brought by the EEOC alleged that a former manager at a Taco Bell Memphis store, sexually assaulted a 16-year-old female employee on her first day of work. The Complaint stated that he sexually assaulted the young woman on the work premises and then tried to follow her as she fled home. An Amended Complaint alleged that the same manager had forcibly raped another 16-year-old female employee just five months earlier. This type of workplace misconduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination, including sexual assaults as the most egregious forms of sexual harassment.
In a separate 2009 criminal proceeding, the manager pled guilty to raping both women and is currently serving two concurrent eight-year prison terms. Upon his release, he will be required to register permanently as a sex offender under the Tennessee Sexual Offender and Violent Sexual Offender Registration, Verification, and Tracking Act. In addition, as a convicted rapist, he will never again be permitted to work in any job employing minors under the age of 18.
The United States District Court in Memphis also entered a consent decree effecting eight Taco Bell stores in the Memphis metropolitan area requiring Taco Bell to do the following:
· Pay a total of $350,000 under the terms of the two-year consent decree to resolve the claims of the two harassment victims;
· Maintain a written policy against sexual harassment;
· Widely distribute the policy to all employees in Memphis stores within 30 days of the entry of the decree;
· Conduct anti-discrimination training; and
· Post anti-discrimination notices.
Common Sense Counsel: These are particularly egregious allegations both because of the nature of the conduct and the age of the female victims. It is tragic when young employees, especially in their first jobs, are subjected to this level of sexual abuse by a manager. Sexual harassment is always unacceptable, but this situation was especially so, given the extreme nature of the assaults and the youth and vulnerability of the victims. For Alabama employers there is no substitute for a well drafted written policy against harassment, distribution of the policy with a signed employee acknowledgment, awareness training on the policy and a procedure to investigate and resolve complaints. The next issue of grave concern is the hiring any employee, and particularly a manager, that may have a criminal background when you have teenage employees or care for children. All such management employees should be run through a criminal background and sexual offender check, with a checking of prior references. A well drafted release to obtain background information is your key to success to keep your Company out of the headlines and protecting your employees from sexual predators.

Tommy Eden is a Lee County native, an attorney with the local office of Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP and a member of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law and serves on the Board of Directors for the East Alabama SHRM Chapter. He can be contacted at teden@constangy.com or 334-246-2901. Blog at www.alabamaatwork.com