A former Habit Burger cashier is suing the company, alleging she was sexually harassed by a general manager and a cook at two different San Fernando Valley stores and eventually forced to quit in 2018.
The plaintiff’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges harassment based on sex, retaliation and failure to prevent discrimination, retaliation and harassment. She’s seeking unspecified damages.
A Habit Burger representative could not be immediately reached for comment.
The plaintiff was hired by the Habit Burger in May 2016 when she was 16 years old, according to the suit filed Friday. In November 2017, the company appointed a new general manager and the woman, who was the teen’s direct supervisor, began flirting and sending suggestive text messages to the plaintiff, who by this time was 17 years old, according to the suit.
The supervisor’s pursuit and harassment of the plaintiff escalated and the boss coerced her employee into complying with her sexual requests by cutting her hours when she did not accede to the demands, the suit alleges.
Feeling pressured given that her boss had the power to fire her and/or cut her hours from a job she took in order to pay basic living necessities, the plaintiff complied and gave in to the supervisor’s demands, according to her court papers.
In June 2018, the company transferred the plaintiff from the Encino store to the Woodland Hills location “at the behest of” her supervisor, the suit states.
At the new location, the plaintiff was subjected to further sexual harassment, this time by a cook who followed her into the back freezer, the suit alleges. He turned off the lights, tried to lock the door, cornered the plaintiff and began speaking to her in Spanish, calling her “bonita” and “mamacita,” the suit alleges.
The cook then tried to caress her face and kiss her, but the plaintiff pushed him away, the suit states. She suffered severe emotional distress and reported the incident to her supervisor, the general manager of Woodland Hills location, and to the district manager, according to the suit.
The plaintiff believes Habit Burger management knew of the alleged conduct of both the cook and her former boss toward her, but “failed to take appropriate action required by law,” the suit states.
In July 2018, the cook approached the plaintiff in the parking lot of the Woodland Hills location and sexually assaulted her again, the suit alleges. The plaintiff once more reported what happened verbally and in writing, but rather than take the right steps, the company retaliated by cutting her hours and writing her up for missing a day of work, the suit alleges. Soon thereafter, the plaintiff maintains she was forced to quit.
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