A restaurant and entertainment facility in Riverside County is facing legal allegations that it failed to protect teenage female employees from sexual harassment.
One allegation is that a patron of the restaurant sexually assaulted a server and made lewd suggestions to her.
At the time of the incident, the man had also been behaving in an abusive manner to other servers. When the server, who was 17 at the time, complained, management removed the customer and told her she could go back to work.
The allegations say that other teenaged servers were also sexually harassed. The restaurant reportedly had a policy not to discipline drunken or offensive behavior or to remove customers who were out of control, saying doing so could damage the restaurant.
Instead, the young people were told that they should carry a weapon on them. The girls were not given an escort to their vehicles even though some customers would be lingering after they got off shift.
The owner of the restaurant indicated that his business would re-examine the incident.
In the meantime, the plaintiff who recently filed the lawsuit against the restaurant is demanding compensation. The lawsuit also alleges the business violated California law in other respects.
Businesses have to put the protection of employees ahead of profits
Employers in Southern California have a far-reaching obligation to prevent sexual harassment and, if it occurs, to deal with it promptly and effectively.
The obligation does not just extend to management personnel. Firms must also keep employees from being harassed by their colleagues, business associates and even customers.
On a practical level, this means that a business has to be ready to confront its customers and even tell them they are no longer welcome if the customers engage in inappropriate or harassing behavior.
A business must do this even if its leadership is afraid it might anger customers or hurt its own profits.
If they fail in this obligation, Southern California businesses face serious legal consequences under both state and federal law.