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PRESS RELEASE
10-5-09

Los Lunas Sonic Sued by EEOC for Sex Harassment and Retaliation

Supervisor Harassed Several Females, Including Teens, Federal Agency Charges

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Sonic Drive-In of Los Lunas, Ltd., and B&B Consultants, Inc., doing business as Sonic Drive-In in Los Lunas, N.M., violated federal law by subjecting a class of female employees (including some teenagers) to sexual harassment, retaliating against the women for complaining about it and forcing many of them to resign, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed on September 29, 2009.

The EEOC alleged that a supervisor employed by Sonic subjected a class of women to sexual harassment. The women were victims of pervasive sexual comments and innuendo and unwelcome touching of bodies, which created a hostile work environment for them, the EEOC said. The agency also charged that some women suffered retaliation with respect to work hours and in the terms, conditions, or privileges of their employment because they opposed the supervisor’s unwelcome conduct. Finally, the complaint charged that the harassment, retaliation, and/or the employer’s failure to remedy the situation caused several women to resign.

“Sexual harassment is always unacceptable, but when some of the victims are vulnerable teenagers, it is especially egregious,” said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. “The EEOC is doing what it can to protect the right of these young workers to be free from this kind of outrageous treatment. That’s why this lawsuit is important.”

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, including sexual harassment and retaliation against individuals who file internal complaints, file charges of discrimination, or otherwise oppose discriminatory employment practices and/or participate in proceedings under Title VII. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico (EEOC v. Sonic Drive-In of Los Lunas, Ltd., and B&B Consultants, Inc., d/b/a Sonic Drive-In, Civil Action No. 1:09-cv-00953-WJ/ACT) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.

The lawsuit asks the court to order Sonic Drive-In of Los Lunas to provide the class of affected women with appropriate relief, including back wages; compensatory and punitive damages; and to grant a permanent injunction enjoining the company from engaging in any gender-discriminatory practice. The EEOC also asks the court to order the company to institute and carry out policies and practices which eradicate and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah, added, “We continue to see a significant number of sexual harassment cases throughout our district. We are particularly concerned when employers fail to address harassment by managers and fail to protect women, some of whom are teenagers, from harassment in the workplace. The EEOC will prosecute such cases vigorously.”

“Our investigation revealed that a managerial supervisor was permitted to harass these women in the workplace and Sonic did not act promptly to provide corrective relief.” said EEOC Phoenix Acting District Director Rayford Irvin. “Employers have an important responsibility to protect their employees from harassment and retaliation in the workplace.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.