Fast food chain under consent decree sued by former worker for harassment
A former Del Taco shift leader sued the Lake Forest-based restaurant chain Thursday, alleging she was wrongfully fired after she reported being groped, subjected to vulgar comments and sexually propositioned by a newly hired co-worker.
According to the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit, plaintiff Daisyrose Spradlin was fired Nov. 3 in a backlash for insisting that management take action to stop to the man’s behavior. She alleges her manager repeatedly refused to hear her complaint, to review the obscene texts she received or to alert human resources. The manager of the Granada Hills location where Spradlin worked instead told her that he wanted to have enough employees to keep the fast-food eatery open, the suit states.
Management told Spradlin after an investigation that she was losing her job for a company policy violation, specifically “sexual activity” with the new employee, behavior she denies engaging in or consenting to with the man, according to the suit.
“This whole thing smacks of retaliation,” plaintiff’s attorney Vincent Calderone said.
Spradlin also alleges sexual harassment and sexual battery and she seeks unspecified damages. A Del Taco representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the suit.
Within hours of first meeting him on Oct. 13, the new worker’s allegedly predatory behavior increased to the point that he sent her inappropriate texts, photos and videos during an overnight shift, according to the suit.
Spradlin, 24, had just been promoted and was being trained as a new shift manager, according to the suit, which also states she did not hire the man who allegedly harassed her and had not met him before the night she was harassed.
Calderone said the company’s mishandling of the complaint is noteworthy because Del Taco LLC is under a federal consent decree to stop sexual harassment and retaliation against female employees. The company in December 2020 paid $1.25 million in monetary relief for failing to stop the behavior as part of a settlement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC had filed a federal lawsuit over the company’s sexually hostile work environment, which violates Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act.
The consent decree also included Del Taco handling sexual harassment incidents under the auspices of an EEO compliance officer to ensure the company follows the law.
“She’s the complaining party and they fired her under the pretext of an as-yet-unnamed policy violation,” Calderone said. “It’s a textbook example of mishandling a sexual harassment incident in a very intentional way, which we intend to prove in court,” Calderone said.
If Del Taco is found to be in violation the consent order, the federal case against the company can be reopened, Calderone said.
“They didn’t keep her informed and acted counter to the consent decree that ordered them to provide a supportive reporting process for any sexually harassed employee,” Calderone said. “Instead, they were dismissive, then defensive, then aggressive.”