The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced Wednesday it filed a class-action sexual harassment lawsuit against the owner of two Tapioca Express franchises in the South Bay.
The lawsuit alleges the owner, Eduardo Rivera, created a hostile work environment for young female employees at his franchises in Chula Vista and National City with unwanted touching, sexual comments and comments about their bodies, and inappropriate jokes.
According to the EEOC, Rivera would wait for moments his wife was away or when he couldn’t be seen on camera and touch his female employees from behind and even push up against them from behind.
The alleged harassment dates back as far as 2013 when Rivera was in his 50s.
The suit says some employees felt compelled to quit their jobs because of the alleged harassment. The claim states the EEOC sent communications to Rivera and the parent company about “sexual harassment and constructive discharge."
The EEOC issued a statement that read in part: "Sex harassment remains a persistent problem which requires all employers to ensure accountability, training and leadership to promote a workplace free of harassment."
Rivera’s son and daughter also named in the suit because they're owners and had the power to "prevent and correct the unlawful employment actions."
The EEOC said it filed the suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement.
Rivera said he was shocked when he learned of the allegations and said they were untrue.
NBC 7 reached out to Tapioca Express for comment and has not heard back.
Tapioca Express is a popular milk tea franchise with more than 20 locations in San Diego, Orange and Los Angeles Counties.