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Florida Worker Fired In Retaliation For Complaining About Sexual Harassment EEOC Lawsuit Alleges

Retaliation claim lying on the desk with gavel.

For more than twenty years, our Citrus County, Florida workplace retaliation lawyers have fought for the rights of sexual harassment victims. In far too many cases, our Inverness, Florida workplace retaliation attorneys have learned, sexual harassment victims are punished for complaining about the harassment they have endured. Knowing their job and economic survival are often at stake, many sexual harassment victims are unable to turn to their employer for protection from sexual harassment because of justified fears of retaliation. In this article, our Citrus County, Florida workplace retaliation lawyers explain how a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit recently resolved by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) demonstrates that federal employment discrimination law protects sexual harassment victims from retaliation when they lodge a sexual harassment complaint.

Employment Discrimination Lawsuit

On August 12, 2021, the EEOC issued a press release announcing that has entered into a Consent Decree settling a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit against Chipotle Services, LLC, doing business as Chipotle Mexican Grill (Chipotle). On September 9, 2020, the EEOC filed the sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit, U.S. E.E.O.C. v. Chipotle Services, LLC, Case No. 8:20-cv-02128, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. In the Consent Decree, which was signed by the U.S. District Court Judge on August 11, 2021, Chipotle agreed to pay $70,000 to resolve the sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit.

Sexual Harassment Victims’ Rights

The EEOC brought the sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) on behalf of a former employee of Chipotle, a woman named Jerome. Title VII makes sexual harassment an unlawful employment practice. Sexual harassment that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create an abusive working environment violates Title VII. In order to protect sexual harassment victims, Title VII also contains an anti-retaliation provision. Under Title VII, employers are forbidden from retaliating against employees who complain about perceived sexual harassment in the workplace.

The EEOC claims that Chipotle violated Title VII by requiring Jerome to work in a sexually hostile work environment and by firing Jerome in retaliation for complaining about the sexual harassment she experienced in the workplace.

Worker Claims Sexual Harassment

In November 2017, Jerome commenced her employment with Chipotle. Jerome worked as a crew person at Chipotle’s restaurant in Orlando, Florida. Jerome alleges that beginning in March 2018, she was subjected to unwanted sexually harassing behavior from a co-worker named Avila. Initially, Avila’s sexual behavior towards Jerome involved verbal conduct of a sexual nature, including sexual remarks, sexual propositions, and comments about her breasts. Eventually, Avila’s sexual behavior towards Jerome escalated to physical conduct of a sexual nature, including touching her buttocks and rubbing up against her.

Beginning in April 2018, Jerome complained on at least four occasions to restaurant management, including the apprentice manager and general manager, about Avila’s sexually harassing behavior. Despite her repeated complaints, according to the EEOC, Chipotle did not investigate Jerome’s complaints or take any disciplinary action against Avila. Because of Chipotle’s failure to take immediate and appropriate corrective action after learning that Jerome was being sexually harassed by Avila, the EEOC maintains that Chipotle allowed Avila’s sexual harassment of Jerome to continue.

Worker Claims Retaliatory Discharge

Jerome alleges that on May 18, 2018, Avila sexually assaulted her on two occasions in the workplace. Jerome promptly notified the apprentice manager of the sexual assaults. When Jerome’s complaint was relayed to the general manager, the general manager told Jerome that her complaint would be investigated.

On May 19, 2018, Jerome informed the general manager that she intended to lodge a sexual harassment complaint with the corporate office because of local management’s failure to take any remedial action in response to her repeated sexual harassment complaints against Avila. The general manager told Jerome that she would forward Jerome’s sexual harassment complaints to the corporate office. However, the EEOC contends, the general manager never relayed Jerome’s sexual harassment complaints to the corporate office. On May 22, 2018, three days after she informed the general manager of her intention to lodge a sexual harassment complaint with the corporate office, Chipotle terminated Jerome’s employment.

Lawyers For Retaliation Victims

The EEOC is the administrative agency of the federal government responsible for interpreting and enforcing federal employment discrimination law. As part of its enforcement of federal employment discrimination law, the EEOC is authorized by statute to file lawsuits on behalf of sexual harassment and retaliation victims. In a press release issued on August 12, 2021 regarding the case, the Director of the EEOC’s Tampa Field Office, Evangeline Hawthorne, stated that the “EEOC will always seek to eliminate workplace sexual harassment where it finds it.”

Inverness, FL Workplace Retaliation Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing workers throughout Central Florida, our Citrus County, Florida workplace retaliation attorneys have fought for the rights of retaliation victims for more than twenty years. If you have been retaliated against for complaining about sexual harassment or have questions about your protection against retaliation for exercising your employee rights, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Inverness, Florida workplace retaliation lawyers. Our employee rights law firm takes workplace retaliation cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.

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