HOUSTON — The former manager of a Chipotle in Houston has allegedly fled to Mexico after being accused of sexually harassing a 16-year-old employee, according to the victim's attorney.
A jury awarded the teen, who is now 19 years old, and her mother $7.65 million Monday in court following allegations he and his supervising manager pressured the child into doing sexual acts, a news release from the teen's attorney Benjamin L. Hall said.
The victim was working at the Chipotle restaurant in Houston's energy corridor in Oct. 2013, court documents said. Hall said managers at the restaurant groomed the teen and encouraged her to participate in unprotected sex while at the business and other places. The teen quit her job because of the sexual abuse, a representative of the teen said.
The victim's attorney said the graphic nature of the evidence presented convinced jurors to hold the managers accountable along with Chipotle corporate. The court found the company at fault for failing to supervise and train the conduct of its employees, he said.
The jury also agreed with the plaintiffs that Chipotle and its supervisors even had knowledge of the sexual assaults occurring, and attorneys say unbelievably, the company did nothing about it!
"The jury took only three and a half hours- and I think half of that was eating a pizza or getting a lunch," Hall said. "But they had already made up their mind after the second week of trial that Chipotle was responsible for the injuries to this victim."
The award is compensation for damages suffered by both the teen and her mother, Hall said. Chipotle will also be paying more than $1 million in attorney fees, the release said.
"Chipotle's conduct in this case was outrageous," Hall said. "The unrestrained and unrepentant abuse of this child was unforgivable. I am happy the jury carefully considered all of the damning evidence against this company and its managers and rendered one of the largest verdicts of its kind in this state."
It's not the only sexual assault case Chipotle has dealt with.
"There are other instances where managers have had sex with underage workers, and some of it is pretty horrendous."
And now this case sends a clear message to all employers.
"The molester has now fled the country. He's in Mexico," Hall said. "He needs to be arrested, and he needs to be put behind bars. I understand he's on social media kind of taunting the family, or saying threats to the family."
As Hall put it, "If you're gonna hire 16-year-olds, you damn sure better have good policy enforcement to make sure they're protected."