Suit: Panda Express Workers Had to Strip at Seminar

Employee says she signed up in hopes of a promotion
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 9, 2021 3:03 PM CST
Suit: 'Cult-Like' Seminar Made Workers Strip, Be Humiliated
A Panda Express restaurant in Phoenix.   (AP Photo/Terry Tang)

The Panda Express restaurant chain is accused in a lawsuit of requiring candidates for promotion to participate in a seminar in which they were screamed at, humiliated, and ordered to strip to their underwear. A 23-year-old former employee filed the suit—citing sexual battery, a hostile work environment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress—against Panda Restaurant Group and Alive Seminars and Coaching Academy, both based in California. The woman worked at a Santa Clarita location, the Los Angeles Daily News reports. "Panda Express pushed its employees in the Los Angeles region to complete Alive Seminars training," the suit says. "In many cases, it was a prerequisite to promotion." The chain said it takes the woman's accusations seriously and has investigated. It said it has no control over Alive Seminars, which did not answer requests for comment.

The suit describes intimidation and harassment: An employee of the training company stood outside the door if an attendee went to the bathroom. Participants were kept in a dark room and screamed at—in Spanish—for doing nothing, though they had followed instructions. "The atmosphere resembled less a self-improvement seminar than a site for off-the-books interrogation of terrorist suspects," the suit says, per the Daily Beast. The woman was made to strip to her underwear in what she was told was a trust-building exercise, then ordered to "hug it out" in the middle of the room with a male participant, also in his underwear, the suit says. The employee made an excuse and left the seminar, which she had paid for herself, early. She then quit her job, the lawsuit says. (Read more corporate culture stories.)

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