Pseudo-Chinese food chain P.F. Chang's is being accused of sexual harassment. Four female employees from Southern California branches of the restaurant are currently in arbitration with the company, reports the LA Times. The lawsuits come less than two years after two other women were awarded half a million dollars each after claiming they had been sexually harassed at P.F. Chang's locations in Carlsbad and La Jolla.
All of the claims have had to go through arbitration proceedings rather than standard court proceedings because of the employees' contracts, according to Jeffrey Belong, an attorney at Hogue & Belong in San Diego who represents the four current plaintiffs, as well as the two from 2014.
A fifth woman, who was 16 when she was hired at P.F. Chang's, has also accused the chain of sexual harassment. Because of her age, Belong said they are arguing in Los Angeles County Superior Court that she was not of legal age to give consent. A judge agreed, and P.F. Chang's has appealed.
The complaints filed with the arbitrator on behalf of the women detail inappropriate touching and sexually inappropriate comments. The 16-year-old claims she was slapped on the butt and called a bitch by a male hostess; she also says other employees said they wanted to have sex with her, and detailed how in explicit terms. "It's all really foul and disgusting stuff that shouldn't happen in any workplace," Belong said.
P.F. Chang's said in a statement that they could not comment on pending litigation, but did say the company "is committed to providing a workplace free of any type of unlawful harassment or discrimination."
Sexual harassment of women working in restaurants is certainly nothing new, and those who report it are often retaliated against: Earlier this year a woman claimed she was fired from a Charlotte, North Carolina barbecue restaurant for reporting sexual harassment. In October 2014, the Restaurant Opportunities Center United released a report that found just under 70 percent of female restaurant employees experienced some form of sexual harassment at work. As a response, women in the industry launched protests in cities across the country and on social media with the hashtag #NotOnTheMenu.