Lawsuit alleges manager of two franchises targeted Filipina employees between the ages of 17 and 23
In late July, the popular boba and restaurant chain Tapioca Express settled a sexual harassment lawsuit with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on allegations that a franchise owner harassed young Filipina employees.
Per the settlement, Tapioca Express is to pay $102,500.
The lawsuit alleges that the owner of two Tapioca Express stores in Chula Vista and National City “intentionally” took “advantage of time alone with” young Filipina employees between the ages of 17 and 23 to make “repeated and unwanted comments of a sexual nature and physical contact,” according to the EEOC.
“We commend the young women for coming forward to shine a light on the harassment to which they were subjected,” Christopher Green, director of the EEOC office in San Diego, told the Times of San Diego. “Their strength may give courage to other young people or those in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community who may be suffering harassment or discrimination in the workplace to come forward as well.
The EEOC added that the alleged harassment led to some employees to quit their jobs. The EEOC did not disclose how many employees were harassed, but according to a statement from Tapioca Express sent to Asian Journal, the EEOC lawsuit “involved two employees.”
In the statement sent to the Asian Journal, Tapioca Express denied the allegations and maintained that it operates “in a non-discriminatory fashion,” saying that “we would never tolerate the harassment [of our] team members.”
“While we vehemently [deny] the EEOC’s allegations — including that it would ever discriminate based on an employee’s sex — the organization has moved far beyond those issues, and it made no sense to litigate the case through trial, especially considering that the cost of resolving this matter was far less than the cost of going forward through trial and would allow us to avoid wasting unnecessary resources which are better directed towards our members and our mission,” Tapioca Express wrote.
Along with monetary relief to the victims, Tapioca Express has also agreed to hire “an external monitor” to evaluate the company’s sexual harassment policies and procedures so they are in compliance with EEOC regulations. All employees will also undergo anti-sexual harassment training.
“Harassment remains a persistent problem in the workplace, which must be addressed top-down in any company,” Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles office, said in a statement. “We are encouraged by the steps Tapioca Express has taken to resolve this matter and the measures it has put in place to prevent workplace harassment and discrimination.” (Klarize Medenilla/AJPress)