Woman sues Panda Express for ‘cult-like ritual;’ forced to strip in team building exercise

“We are looking forward to presenting this case to a jury so that a clear message can be sent to Panda Express — which owns and operates over 2,000 restaurants — that it must put to an end to its practice of requiring its employees to undergo horrific psychological abuse and harassment to be promoted,” Oscar Ramirez, the woman’s attorney, said in an email Monday.

A former employee with the restaurant chain Panda Express in Santa Clarita, CA, filed suit against them and Alive Seminars and Coaching Academy alleging “she was required to strip down to her underwear and hug a partially clad co-worker during a ‘cult-like ritual’ at a 2019 training seminar sponsored by the company as a prerequisite to promotion.” She also alleged “sexual battery, a hostile work environment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

The unidentified woman paid out of pocket to attend a four-day, 2019 training seminar sponsored by the company as a prerequisite for promotion. During the seminar, attendees were forced to sit in a room, instructed not to talk, and “left in isolation for a full hour before a man stormed in, yelling in Spanish and berating them for sitting there and doing nothing, when that is exactly what they had been instructed to do, says the complaint.” The rooms had no clock and all doors and windows were covered with black cloth.

When the seminar continued on July 13, 2019, the woman allegedly was forced to strip down to her underwear under the guise of trust building.

“Plaintiff — stripped almost naked in front of strangers and co-workers — was extremely uncomfortable but pressed on because she knew it was her only chance at a promotion,” says the lawsuit. “Meanwhile, Alive Seminars staff were openly ogling the women in their state of undress, smiling, and laughing.”

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