What in the world is going on at Panda Express?
Other than — that is — masterfully-made mushroom chicken, kung pao, and honey walnut shrimp…
The joint delivers delicious dishes, but if a lawsuit is to be believed, working for the Chinese cuisine king served a 23-year-old and her coworkers something less than tasty.
So relays the Los Angeles Daily News.
According to the filing, said employee — who worked at a Santa Clarita, California location from 2016 through July 2019 — was informed by her manager she’d need to attend a self-improvement seminar.
“Eager to improve her skills and advance within the company,” says the suit, she paid out of pocket for the four-day furtherancefest.
Allegedly, she and 20 to 50 other workers were in for a surprise: On the first day at the Alive Seminars-hosted shindig in an East Los Angeles warehouse, psychological abuse reared its ugly head.
Per the report, after being instructed to sit quietly and do nothing — and having been left alone for an hour — a man entered, screaming at them in Spanish for doing what they were told.
Another seminarist shouted that they were “nothing.”
The warehouse’s windows were purportedly covered by dark sheets, and participants weren’t allowed to use their phones.
The suit asserts the entire episode was like an “off-the-books interrogation of terrorist suspects.”
From the filing:
Nevertheless, most attendees, including plaintiff, felt that they had no choice but to remain because they were sent to the seminar by Panda Express and told that their opportunity for promotion would depend on completion of the seminar.
The New York Post lays out more — and much worse — compliments of the report:
Later in the seminar, the plaintiff was allegedly pressured to strip down to her underwear with other co-workers — while they all tried to make the whole group believe them as they screamed out about their inner struggles as part of a trust-building exercise, the news site reported.
The woman was allegedly forced to hug one man — who was also in his underwear — as he wept because he was not convincing enough during the exercise, the outlet reported.
Later, all were allegedly ordered to keep their eyes closed and imagine their negative energy was being removed by a light and swallowed by a hole in the ground.
The suit claims that process was captured in a photo taken by a seminar worker, showing the plaintiff in her underwear.
As revealed by the LA Daily News, one attendee who needed to vomit was given a garbage can in order to upchuck in front of the crowd; another was monitored while in the bathroom.
The plaintiff finally blew the joint under the guise of a family emergency.
She also quit Panda Express.
And now she’s claiming sexual battery, a hostile work environment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The defendants: Panda Restaurant Group, Coaching Academy, and Alive Seminars.
The woman’s attorney told the Daily News they’re sending a message:
“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.”
Judging by its statement, Panda Express is determined to distance itself from the disaster:
Alive Seminars and Coaching Academy is a third-party organization in which Panda has no ownership interest and over which it exercises no control,” the company said in a statement, adding the seminars are not mandatory and not required for promotion.
We do not condone the kind of behavior (the plaintiff) has alleged took place at Alive Seminars and Coaching Academy, and we would not intentionally allow it to occur within or on behalf of our organization.
Meanwhile, notes the Daily News, “Alive Seminars said its training sessions are presented with respect and dignity.”
If the filed account is accurate — and that’s a considerable if — I’d say they might wanna revamp their path to personal excellence.
The suit states the victim and her peers were pressured to strip down in a “cult-like ritual.”
Possibly in the good Panda’s fortune cookie: A sizable settlement.
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