Calif. Taco Bell Owners Sued for Sexual Harassment

August 7, 2006 ( - A sexual harassment lawsuit against a company that owns 18 Taco Bell franchises in and around northern California has been filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of a Taco Bell employee.

According to the Red Bluff Daily News, the suit alleges that J.A. Sutherland Inc., owner of the Taco Bell franchises, allowed the sexual harassment of 25-year-old Amanda Manning, assigned to manage a crew of mostly young men at a Taco Bell in Clearlake, California.

Manning alleges that male employees physically intimidated and taunted her as well as minor female employees. The claims include “unwelcome touching, leering and whistling, comments about their bodies and sexual propositions.”

Manning claims that her complaints, and complaints from other female workers, to management about the harassment and fear for safety were ignored.

The lawsuit, filed in US District Court for the Northern District of California, seeks injunctive relief and monetary compensation for Manning.

The company’s Vice President of Operations Casey Burris disagrees with the time frame in which Manning reported the harassment incidents. Burris said the company learned of the alleged harassment two weeks before Manning quit. He said the company immediately investigated the matter. However, Manning claimed she complained four months before she quit.

Manning said she found an envelope at her desk, which contained pornographic photographs of her young, male employees exposing themselves. Burris said the desk did not belong only to Manning, but also to about five or six other managers.

“The problem here is that this isn’t her office, it’s a shared office with five or six managers,” said Burris. “This isn’t to justify the presence of the photos but we did investigate them as soon as we were told about them and found that they belonged to one of the other managers who had taken them at a party and had brought them in to show those involved and accidentally left them.”

Burris says that several of the employees who admitted being involved were fired and that while the pictures are inappropriate, he does not think they were left on purpose to specifically harass Manning. But Burris agreed the photographs did not belong in the workplace.

Burris said he had attempted to meet with Manning after she quit but she had refused. He claims they hadn’t received any complaints until the first time she reported the incident. According to Red Bluff, Burris said the situation has been dragging on for two years.

A Taco Bell restaurant in Illinois was also sued by the EEOC in July on behalf of a teenage boy who claims a trainer at one of the fast-food restuarants sexually harassed him and held a knife to his throat (SeeTaco Bell Sued for Sexual Harassment) .