San Diego SEXUAL HARRASSMENT – P.F. CHANG’S | Hogue Belong LAw
Case: Andrade, et al. v. P.F. Chang’s, et al. (Case No. 37-2012-00058424-CU-OE-NC; Arbitration Case No. 73-160-00121-13)
Court: Superior Court of San Diego
Judge: Earl H. Maas, III – (compelled to AAA Arbitration)
Date: July 25, 2014
Result: Hogue & Belong obtained an award in the amount of $931,200.00, plus attorneys’ fees and costs.
Facts & Allegations
Plaintiffs Linda Andrade and Liliana Avila were both employees at P.F. Chang’s. Ms. Andrade worked for the restaurant in Carlsbad, and Ms. Avila works for the restaurant in La Jolla.
Shortly after Mses. Andrade and Avila filed their civil action, P.F. Chang’s moved to compel arbitration. P.F. Chang’s motion was granted, and the case proceeded to arbitration. Both Mses. Andrade and Avila worked in the kitchens (termed Back of House “BOH”) of their respective P.F. Chang’s restaurants.
Ms. Avila’s supervisor was Angel Mendoza, the Culinary Partner. She began working at P.F. Chang’s in 2011 when she was just 20 years old. Mendoza is over twice Ms. Avila’s age. As early as the first week of her employment, Ms. Avila became subjected to sexual comments and conduct by the male kitchen staff. The sexually offensive comments included: sexual jokes with double meanings; comments about female co-workers being fat; derogatory comments about homosexuals, references to males’ penises; comments like, “look at her ass,” and “would you do her?”; comments about the size and firmness of females’ buttocks and breasts; asking Ms. Avila and other females if they were “happily married”; cat calls at female employees like “hey, mamacita,” “hey bonita,” “can I have your number?,” “when are we going out?,” “I’ll see you at home,” “text me later,” “you’re my girlfriend, right?,” “hola bebe;” making kissing and whistling noises at female employees walking by; and calling female employees “table dancers.”
Ms. Avila witnessed male kitchen employees make pedophilic comments, mostly by Vincente Jaimes (aka “Topo”), about her co-worker’s 11 year-old daughter whenever she came to the restaurant. Specifically, Ms. Avila witnessed male employees say “sonar el timbre,” which translates to “she can ring the bell,” and in Spanish meant that this eleven year-old girl was “old enough to reach a man’s penis to give oral sex.” Topo would also tell female employees he was going to lick their toes; and refer to female employees as “sluts.” Topo would also tightly hug female co-workers, rubbing his hand up and down their bodies, and on at least two occasions kissed female co-workers on the neck, leaving saliva.
Notably, Topo was a long term P.F. Chang’s employee who continues to work at the P.F. Chang’s La Jolla restaurant today. Vincente Jaimes was not even Topo’s real name. It was discovered that he was borrowing a person by the name of “Vincente Jaimes” social security number. P.F. Chang’s discovered that Topo was using another person’s social security number, but simply allowed Topo to obtain another social security number and remain employed.
Other offensive conduct included the kitchen employees watching pornography on their smart phones, and dry humping various kitchen utensils, such as large whisks. The male cooks stuck their tongues in the tongs and moved their tongues up and down and side to side, simulating licking a woman’s vagina. Ms. Avila often witnessed the male cooks poke each other in the anus while calling each other gay, and witnessed male kitchen employees use cucumbers and eggplants as penises and to simulate masturbation.
Additionally, pregnant women would sometimes have to endure male caresses of their visible pregnancy area, usually accompanied by either questions or boasts about the identity of the father.
Male cooks would walk behind other co-workers when they were bent over, and thrust their hips back and forth, simulating sex with them. Male cooks would do this to Ms. Avila whenever she needed to bend over to scoop rice.
Shortly after her employment, Mendoza, Ms. Avila’s supervisor, would make comments to her such as you have a beautiful smile. Later, Mendoza’s comments escalated into you have beautiful lips. Ms. Avila was married, but Mendoza would frequently ask why Ms. Avila doesn’t she date more men, as well as are you happily married. At least twice he put his hand on her back, starting in the middle of her back and rubbing down to just above her buttocks.
Mendoza also cornered Ms. Avila in a secluded corner of the restaurant, and attempted to kiss her. After Ms. Avila admonished Mendoza, he approached her again, later that day, stuck his finger in vanilla sauce, and then shoved his finger in Ms. Avila’s mouth. Other restaurants, including Irvine, Mission Viejo, and Chula Vista have reported squeezing the vanilla sauce into female co-workers faces, and making comments such as “look, you have cum on your face.”
Ms. Avila complained about Mendoza’s conduct, and P.F. Chang’s decided to transfer Mendoza to another restaurant. Ultimately, Mendoza was transferred to the Carlsbad restaurant. Nobody warned any personnel at the Carlsbad restaurant why Mendoza had been transferred in the first place, so nobody knew of his proclivity to sexually harass young workers.
While at Carlsbad, Mendoza began harassing another 20-year-old female employee, Ms. Andrade. Shortly after she was hired, Mendoza asked Ms. Andrade on a date. She refused. Mendoza asked Ms. Andrade out on a date a second time stating that they can use his paycheck. Mendoza would also comment on Ms. Andrade’s lips, and how much he liked seeing her wearing various different jeans.
Mendoza also began physically touching Ms. Andrade. He gave her daily hugs and sometimes approached her from behind to grab her shoulders. He rubbed her back and slid his hands from her shoulders down her back to the top of her buttocks approximately 15 times.
Later, on Mother’s Day, 2012, when Andrade was handing out lemonade to the BOH cooks and began to hand Mendoza a glass of lemonade, Mendoza looked at her and said, in Spanish, “mejor dame un beso,” meaning “instead give me a kiss.” Ms. Andrade rejected this request for a kiss and walked away.
Mendoza stormed after Ms. Andrade, called her a “whore,” and told her that she “wears too much makeup.” Then, he forcibly ripped off a kitchen glove she was wearing, yelled at her for wearing nail polish to work, and sent her home.
Almost all of the sexually offensive conduct that occurred at the La Jolla restaurant, occurred at the Carlsbad restaurant, including comments like “I fucked that bitch last night;” “She would suck my dick;” and “I’ll stick my dick in her.” Kitchen staff at the Carlsbad restaurant falsely claimed that Ms. Andrade had given a male employee oral sex in the car. learn more
Plaintiff Attorney(s): Jeffrey L. Hogue and Tyler J. Belong of Hogue & Belong.
Plaintiffs’ Experts: Victoria Dellaverson (Emotional Distress Expert) and Scott Barer (Human Resources Expert)
Defense Attorney(s): Tim Murphy, Jeffrey Thurrell, and James Fessenden of Fisher & Phillips for defendant P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, and Jennifer Lutz of Pettit Kohn for defendant Angel Mendoza.