Chipotle Settles Female on Male Sexual Harassment Case for $95,000

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

December 13, 2019

Fast-food chain Chipotle Mexican Grill has agreed to pay $95,000 to settle claims by a male employee that his female boss sexually harassed him on numerous occasions and that co-workers retaliated against him after he complained.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) brought the case on behalf of Austin Melton, who worked at a Chipotle in San Jose, California. Melton claimed that his supervisor propositioned him and his then-girlfriend for sex, touched him inappropriately and posted a "scoreboard" in her office to track the staff's sexual activities. The supervisor also allegedly sent Melton and other employees Instagram direct messages of herself dressed in her underwear.

In a statement, the EEOC also noted that when Melton reported the harassment he faced further mistreatment. This included the manager allegedly instructing co-workers not to speak with Melton, and some co-workers locking him in a walk-in freezer. Believing that the chain was not taking his harassment claims seriously, Melton eventually quit his job.

Men bring about 16% of the sexual harassment charges filed with the agency, according to the EEOC's trial attorney in the case, James H. Baker. "Federal laws protect workers from sexual harassment and sexual abuse, regardless of their gender," said Baker, who noted that Melton faced conditions no employee should be forced to accept.

In addition to the monetary settlement, Chipotle agreed to develop and implement training at its 27 restaurants in the San Jose area to ensure they are harassment-free and that supervisors have better accountability. However, Chipotle did not admit any wrongdoing as part of the agreement.