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Shake Shack Agrees to Pay $20,000 Amid Gender Identity Harassment and Discrimination

Shake Shack Agrees to Pay $20,000 Amid Gender Identity Harassment and Discrimination

According to a February 13, 2023 report in the SF Chronicle, fast food chain Shake Shack has voluntarily agreed to pay a former employee $20,000 following alleged gender identity harassment and failure to remedy the situation. The California Civil Rights Department investigated the individual’s claim and found incidents of purposeful use of incorrect pronouns and repeated need to explain the proper gender to co-workers. After several complaints to management (which did nothing about the alleged harassment), the employee quit.  

In addition to the monetary sum, Shake Shack has agreed to update its policy regarding retaliation, harassment, and bullying. It will also conduct employee training about gender identity-based harassment and discrimination. Conciliation agreements with state and federal agencies that investigate and pursue claims of discrimination and harassment in the workplace often include mandatory training requirements. Sometimes, those requirements are particular to the issues, such as the mandate for gender identity training here. In other cases, employers will agree to more broad-based training and policy updates.  

Given the expansion in gender identity rights in the past several years, incidents of gender identity harassment and discrimination are hot issues for state and federal fair employment and human rights agencies. Since gender identity rights have made a great deal of news in recent times, there has been an increased focus on this segment of the LGBTQ+ community, and the need for greater protections against the mistreatment of such employees and training is a big part of the toolkit on minimizing or eliminating these incidents in the workplace.  

All too often, employees still think jokes regarding someone’s gender identity or intentional misuse of pronouns or other identifiers are funny and should be tolerated. People do not understand that the damage to their co-workers’ mental health and ability to do their job can be catastrophic if an environment of intolerance and harassment persists. Training on the issues is just one step towards developing a healthy workplace culture where all employees are treated with dignity and respect. It is, of course, necessary to engage in a full-scale program of training courses involving harassment, diversity, equity and inclusion, civility and respect, and overall tolerance of people from different backgrounds to allow a positive culture to thrive. 

Syntrio develops training programs consisting of eLearning courseware and workshops to improve workplace culture.

Industry-leading gender identity components of Syntrio’s anti-harassment courseware are as much aimed at what employees should be doing to improve their work-life experience as teaching them what not to do. Helping employees understand how a positive culture can impact everyone’s life experience is critical to buy-in on compliance-based topics such as harassment and discrimination. In burgeoning areas such as gender identity harassment that companies like Shake Shack are facing problems with, it is even more necessary to create a culture of tolerance and respect that will allow employees to work in an environment where they are comfortable coming to work.  

Syntrio would appreciate the opportunity to speak with a member of your staff about our top-of-market courseware that can make a difference in your organizational culture. Whether you are looking for e-learning courses aimed at preventing harassment in the workplace or are looking to expand upon an existing program with supplemental training on discrimination, diversity equity, inclusion, or other important topics, we would love to partner with you on bettering your organization.  

Learn More About Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging

Creating a Healthy Workplace Culture and Leadership Development 

Since 2007, Jonathan has practiced labor and employment law on behalf of management. Jonathan focuses his practice on advising employers on the prevention of harassment and discrimination issues, with an emphasis on providing in-person harassment training programs to companies of all sizes. Jonathan is licensed in California, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and maintains a national advice practice.

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