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Tue Jan 10, 2017, 01:23 PM

Restaurants run by labor secretary nominee report 'disturbing' rates of sexual harassment

Restaurants run by labor secretary nominee report 'disturbing' rates of sexual harassment

Survey finds two-thirds of female workers reported harassment at brands owned by CKE Restaurants, run by Andrew Puzder, Trump’s labor pick

Andrew Puzder has in the past defended his company’s notorious advertising that often features scantily clad women eating burgers, saying ‘ugly ones don’t sell burgers’. Photograph: Fred Prouser/Reuters

Two-thirds of female fast food workers at restaurants operated by Andrew Puzder, Donald Trump’s controversial nomination for US labor secretary, experienced sexual harassment at work, a rate much higher than the industry average, a stinging advocacy survey has claimed. Many female workers, according to the research conducted by Restaurant Opportunities Center (Roc) United, have been harassed by customers referencing the highly sexualised advertising campaigns Puzder has championed as CEO of CKE Restaurants, the parent company of chains including Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s.
“Customers have asked why I don’t dress like the women in the commercials,” one Tennessee-based Hardee’s employee told researchers. “I continually get notes left on tables from customers, customers flirt or ask me out,” said another Carl’s Jr employee in California. “I have also been followed outside the store by customers.”

Puzder, CEO of the billion-dollar company since 2000, has staunchly defended his company’s notorious advertising that often features scantily dressed women eating burgers in scenes some have compared to pornography, arguing in 2011: “We believe in putting hot models in our commercials, because ugly ones don’t sell burgers.”

The rate of sexual harassment across the fast food industry is already high, with 40% of female workers reporting some form of unwanted contact, according to recent polling. But researchers at Roc United, a dedicated nonprofit that advocates for restaurant workers’ rights, argued the 66% reporting rate found among CKE employees was “disturbing”.

Puzder, who has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Trump campaign and the Republican party, is also an outspoken critic of increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 and the expansion of rights to overtime pay. CKE Restaurants has settled a number of multimillion-dollar class action lawsuits brought by employees in relation to pay and conditions and, according to a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, were subject to similar class actions cases in California years later. The Roc United study of employees also found that close to a third of the 564 workers surveyed had experienced a form of wage theft, such as failed overtime payments, inadequate work breaks and performing multiple duties without adequate compensation.

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