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Lawsuit: Teenage workers were sexually harassed at Panda Express

Back in January in this San Antonio Law Blog, we discussed a study that discovered that a large number of teenage females are sexually harassed at work. Part of the problem is that teenage employees tend to be less aware of their employment rights than older workers, and they also are likely to feel too intimidated to report wrongdoing. A recent sexual harassment case involving teenage workers at Panda Express involved some of these elements.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Panda Express, a Chinese fast-food chain, in 2012, accusing a male manager at a Hawaii location of sexually harassing at least three teenage female employees.

The alleged harassment involved unwelcome sexual conduct of a verbal and physical nature that created a hostile work environment from 2007 to 2009, according to the lawsuit. One of the victims who reported the harassment was retaliated against. Her hours were slashed and this ultimately forced her into resigning.

For some of the young women involved in this case, the Panda Express jobs were their first and they did not completely understand their employment rights.

Panda Express has now agreed to settle the lawsuit. The company will pay $150,000, which will be split between the victims. The settlement also involves a two-year consent decree, under which Panda Express will provide sexual harassment training to its employees in Hawaii as well as implement anti-harassment policies.

This case may urge parents of teenage workers to talk to them about their work. It can be important to make sure teens understand their right to work in an evironment free of sexual harassment.

Source: mysanantonio.com, "Panda Express settles Hawaii sexual harassment suit," Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, May 29, 2013