Former Panda Express worker says she was pressured to remove clothes during seminar

Former Panda Express worker says she was pressured to remove clothes during seminar
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A former Panda Express employee has filed a lawsuit against the fast-food company and a coaching group after she claims she was pressured to remove her clothes during a seminar that was known as “a prerequisite to promotion.”

The civil complaint was filed by Jennifer Spargifiore in February after she attended a seminar run by Panda Express and Alive Seminars and Coaching Academy in 2019, NBC News reported.

Spargifiore alleges that during the seminar in July 2019, she was asked to remove her clothes and hug another male member, who also took off his clothes.

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Spargifiore left the seminar early and was fired from her job that month. In the lawsuit, she claims the companies are responsible for sexual battery, a hostile work environment and infliction of emotional distress.

Panda Restaurant Group, the parent company of Panda Express, responded to the lawsuit on Wednesday, saying the allegations are “deeply concerning to us,” according to NBC News.

“We do not condone the kind of behavior described in the lawsuit, and it is deeply concerning to us. We are committed to providing a safe environment for all associates and stand behind our core values to treat each person with respect,” the company said.

The company is conducting its own internal investigation of the allegations as well.

The Hill has reached out to Panda Restaurant Group for further comment.

The lawsuit states that Spargifiore was "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," according to NBC. "Meanwhile, Alive Seminars staff were openly ogling the women in their state of undress, smiling, and laughing."

The exercise was framed as a “trust-building exercise,” the lawsuit states.

Alive Seminars told The Orange County Register in a statement that its sessions are offered with dignity and respect.

The Panda Restaurant Group said it "has not and does not mandate that any associate participate in Alive Seminars and Coaching Academy, nor is it a requirement to earn promotions."

Sparigifore worked at the company for almost three years before the incident.