Young fast food workers subject to harassment at work

Bay Area Popeyes Case Puts Focus on Workplace Sexual Harassment

Two Bay Area women filed claims against Popeyes, alleging sexual harassment during their employment at a franchise location in Oakland. The complaints, filed on Aug. 11, accused the company of failing to address a work environment that allowed sexual harassment to occur.

The two plaintiffs who filed the complaints were 17 and 18 years old. They worked as cashiers at the Popeyes franchise on International Boulevard in Oakland while attending high school. Mohammad Zarif Noor and Sedig Joe Amin were identified as the fast-food business’s respective CEO and secretary. The complaints named both the individuals and the Popeyes corporation.

Both women claimed they were sexually harassed by a manager who made explicit comments about their bodies, called them prostitutes, asked inappropriate questions about their sex lives and engaged in offensive banter. The complaints further alleged that the work environment at Popeyes discouraged reporting such behavior, creating a culture of silence and fear of retaliation. Both workers quit their jobs at Popeyes, with one plaintiff saying she was tired of working somewhere that made her feel “unsafe and uncomfortable.”

This is not the first time the Oakland Popeyes has faced worker concerns. Earlier complaints by the two employees led to a temporary shutdown of the franchise in May 2023. The allegations included child labor violations and frequent workplace hostility. Following these incidents, the workers initiated a strike and filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, citing retaliation and reduced work hours.

One critical aspect highlighted in the complaints is the absence of sexual harassment training for employees, which is mandated under California law. Both plaintiffs claim they were unaware of the procedures for reporting workplace misconduct until they sought assistance from Fight for $15 California, a national labor organization. The lack of proper training raises questions about Popeyes’ compliance with the state’s employment laws.

The complaints also detailed alleged retaliation against the plaintiffs when they considered reporting the sexual harassment. One of the workers claimed her hours were cut after management discovered her intention to speak up about the alleged misconduct. Popeyes was further accused of changing workers’ shifts and interrogating them about their union activity, indicating a pattern of retaliation against employees who expressed dissatisfaction with how the employer dealt with workplace issues.

The plaintiffs alleged violations of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, which is a law that protects employees from discrimination and harassment. The case brings attention to the necessity of employers taking workplace sexual harassment claims seriously and addressing them, a requirement under California law that Popeyes appears to have neglected in this instance.

According to the complaints, the two women lost past and future earnings due to the alleged sexual harassment. They are seeking new jobs and hope that their complaints prompt Popeyes to change their unlawful employment practices and offer proper workplace training to employees.

All California employers are responsible for ensuring their workplaces are safe, inclusive and free from harassment and discrimination based on sex, race, national origin, age and other personal characteristics. Employers must prioritize creating work environments where employees feel empowered to report misconduct without fear of retaliation.

If you have been subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace, discuss your situation with an experienced San Francisco employment lawyer right away. Reporting harassment can feel daunting, and many workers fear negative consequences if they choose to speak up.

However, you do not have to tolerate the unlawful behavior. With a skilled employment lawyer representing your interests, you can stand up to your employer and change your situation for the better. McCormack Law Firm is dedicated to protecting the rights of workers and fighting back against employers’ illegal practices.

The San Francisco employment lawyers at McCormack Law Firm are available to answer your questions about your work dispute. We can advise you on the legal options available to you. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.

Read more

Workers sorting produce in warehouse

Misclassified Delivery Drivers Get $650,000 in Back Wages from Romero’s Food Products

A food manufacturer in Santa Fe Springs, California, is on the hook for $650,000 after the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) efforts to recover back wages for a group of misclassified delivery…

Retail working in a mask standing behind an open sign

Marin County Home Consignment Center Worker Wins $1.3 Million in COVID-19 Whistleblower Lawsuit

People often think of whistleblowing in relation to exposing a major scandal or government wrongdoing. However, being a whistleblower does not always have to be so dramatic in the context of workplace…

Restaurant workers discussing their employer

Sacramento Restaurant Uses Fake Priest to Get Workers to Confess Wrongdoing

Even though workplace retaliation is unlawful, employers sometimes try to take advantage of workers who do not know or understand their rights. Examples of retaliation include threatening to report employees to immigration…

Asian tech worker working late at night

Silicon Valley Firm Faces $20 Million Lawsuit Over Anti-Asian Discrimination

An Asian former employee of a Silicon Valley tech firm is seeking $20 million in damages after being fired due to the company’s alleged “culture of prejudice against Asians.” He filed a…