Former Panda Express Worker Sues After Being Forced To Strip in “Cult Initiation Ritual”
- A former Panda Express employee is suing the chain, as well as a seminar company, for allegedly forcing her to strip down to her underwear during a “self-improvement” exercise.
- Her lawsuit claims that seminar leaders also forced her to hug a man while both were in their underwear, that participants were filmed while in their underwear, and that participants were told to wait quietly in a dark room only to have a man later come in and berate them.
- Panda Express has distanced itself from the seminar company and denied allegations that employees were required to participate in the seminar to be eligible for promotions.
- The seminar company has also since said that it does not work with Panda Express, despite a Facebook post on the company’s page indicating otherwise.
Worker’s Lawsuit Describes Disturbing Seminar
A former Panda Express worker from a store in Santa Clarita, California, is suing after she said she was forced to strip down to her underwear in front of other employees during a 2019 “self-improvement” seminar.
According to the woman’s lawsuit, the on-paper goal of that exercise was for participants to open up to one another about their vulnerabilities “until everyone else in the group ‘believed’ them.”
However, she said seminar staff members — which were employed by the company Alive Seminars, not Panda Express — used the moment to “openly [ogle]” at her and other female participants.
At one point during the exercise, the woman claimed that a male participant, also in his underwear, “had some difficulty ‘convincing’ the others and as a result, broke down in tears.” The lawsuit then alleges that the female employee was forced to “hug it out” with him.
Even though she was humiliated, she said she did so, largely because she had been told that completing this seminar was a pre-requisite for promotion at Panda Express and because she’d already shelled out several hundred dollars just to take the course.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg of some of the dark claims laid out in this lawsuit.
During that same exercise, the woman said staff dimmed the lights and instructed participants “to stand up and close their eyes, pretending that a light from above would come down and take all the ‘negative energy’ out of them, then pretend that a hole opened up in the ground and swallowed the “negative energy.”
While this was happening, seminar staff turned a cell phone light on and allegedly used that phone to record the participants.
During another exercise, participants were allegedly left alone in a room and told not to talk. An hour later, a man stormed in yelling in Spanish while berating the participants for doing nothing — even though they had been told to do just that.
According to the lawsuit, that man then said the participants were “‘nothing’ and ‘don’t matter,’ rounding on some people to berate them individually, spittle flying.”
The woman filing the suit summed up the seminar as “psychological abuse,” saying it began to look more and more like a “cult initiation ritual as time went on.” In fact, after it, she even quit her job.
Panda Express and Alive Seminars Respond
The woman is suing both Alive Seminars and Panda Express, which she maintains sent her and other employees to the program.
“Panda Express is on the hook because they were fully aware of what was going on,” her lawyer, Oscar Ramirez, told The Washington Post.
Ramirez also noted that other employees have also since joined in a class-action lawsuit.
Panda Express has distanced itself from Alive Seminars, saying it has no interest in or control over the company.
A spokesperson has also denied that employees were forced to participate in the seminar in order to be considered for promotions, though he did add that the company is investigating the claims detailed in the lawsuit.
In an interview with La Magazine, Alive Seminars asserted that it doesn’t work with Panda Express; however, a Facebook post from 2019 heavily seems to contradict that.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (LA Mag) (CBS Los Angeles)
Right-Wingers Are Turning Against Chick-fil-A
Some have accused the company of joining a woke “cult” after learning of its diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative.
Chick-fil-A Goes “Woke”
Conservatives are condemning Chick-fil-A after learning of the fast food chain’s commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Some have accused the brand of bowing “to the Woke mob.” Others have debated boycotting the chain.
It’s unclear when exactly Chick-fil-A began its DEI campaign, but according to LinkedIn, the current Vice President of DEI, Erick McReynolds, has been working in the department since 2020 before taking on his current role in 2021. It is also unclear why right-wingers on Twitter have just now discovered Chick-fil-A’s DEI website, but many spent a chunk of Tuesday morning lambasting the company for working to promote diversity.
Chick-fil-A’s DEI page is titled “Committed to being Better at Together.”
“Modeling care for others starts in the restaurant, and we are committed to ensuring mutual respect, understanding and dignity everywhere we do business,” McReynolds said in a statement on the website.
Chick-fil-A is no stranger to boycott campaigns, though those efforts usually come from the opposite side of the political aisle. The company, known for its strong Christian ties, has been criticized for donating to groups with anti-LGBTQ missions. As a result, many on the left have refused to eat there, while it has been a haven for those on the right.
Conservatives, however, have become increasingly outraged by DEI initiatives. Chick-fil-A’s website, which only vaguely outlines its DEI efforts, still seems to be enough for the right to change its tune about the brand.
“Even our beloved Chick-Fil-A has fallen to the DEI cult,” one person tweeted. “the same agenda that is turning our beloved military woke.”
“It’s becoming an epidemic that even Christian companies are being strong-armed to participate in,” the tweet continued.
Old Clip of Chairman Resurfaces
Some have also started resurfacing an old clip of Chick-fil-A Chairman Dan Cathy speaking on a panel about racism during the summer of 2020. During the discussion, he talked about repentance and said that if you ever see someone who needs their shoes shined, you should do it. He then walked over to a Black person on the panel, got on his knees, and shined their shoes.
“There’s a time in which we need to have, you know, some personal action here, and maybe we need to give them a hug, too,” Cathy said while shining the shoes.
“I bought about 1,500 of these and I gave them to all our Chick-fil-A operators and staff a number of years ago,” Cathy continued, in reference to his shoe-shining brush. “So, any expressions of a contrite heart, of a sense of humility, a sense of shame, a sense of embarrassment begat with an apologetic heart — I think that’s what our world needs to hear today.”
The clip caused a stir when the events first unfolded, and has prompted a new wave of anger now. Some are accusing Cathy of being “a woke, anti-American, anti-white BLM boot licker” who thinks all white people need to shamefully shine the shoes of Black people to apologize for racism, though that is not what he said.
These boycott calls are just the latest from conservatives who have been on a rampage against any company supporting any social cause they deem as “woke.” Earlier this year, the political right took a stand against Bud Light after it included a trans influencer in a sponsored Instagram post. Just last week, Target and Kohls faced boycotts over items in their Pride Month collections.
See what others are saying: (The Hill) (Rolling Stone) (AL)
Bioré Apologizes For Referencing School Shooting in Mental Health Ad Campaign
“Our tonality was completely inappropriate. We are so sorry,” the skincare brand said.
Video Faces Backlash
The skincare brand Bioré apologized this week for partnering with a school shooting survivor as part of its Mental Health Awareness Month campaign.
“We are committed to continuing our mental health mission, but we promise to do it in a better way,” the company said in an Instagram post on Sunday.
Last week, influencer and recent Michigan State University graduate Cecilee Max-Brown posted a video to TikTok sponsored by Bioré where she discussed the numerous challenges she had faced throughout the year. Among them was a school shooting on her college’s campus, which killed three people in February.
“Life has thrown countless obstacles at me this year, from the school shooting to having no idea what life is going to look like after college,” Max-Brown says in the video. “In honor of mental health awareness month, I’m partnering with Bioré skin care to strip away the stigma of anxiety.
“We want you to get it all out, not only what’s in your pores, but most importantly, what’s on your mind, too,” she continued.
In the 50-second video, Max-Brown went on to discuss more details about her mental health struggles, as well as how “seeing the effects of gun violence firsthand” has impacted her and led to “countless anxiety attacks.”
“I will never forget the feeling of terror that I had walking around campus for weeks in a place I considered home,” she said before closing the video by encouraging her followers to participate in Bioré’s mental health campaign.
The video ignited swift outrage from people who accused Bioré of using a school shooting to sell products. In its apology, the brand admitted the video was misguided.
In the past, Bioré said it has worked with influencers to discuss and reduce mental health stigmas, as the subject is a top priority for its consumers.
“This time, however, we did it the wrong way,” the company said. “We lacked sensitivity around an incredibly serious tragedy, and our tonality was completely inappropriate. We are so sorry.”
Max-Brown also apologized on TikTok, writing that the video was intended to spread awareness, not suggest a product fixed the struggles she has experienced as a result of the shooting.
“I did not mean to desensitize the traumatic event that took place as I know the effects that it has had on me and the Spartan community,” she wrote.
Max-Brown has since removed the initial sponsored video from her account.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NBC News) (The Independent)
Canada’s WestJet Pilots Give 72-Hour Notice For Strike Amid Wave of American Strike Authorizations
“We kept the airline alive during the pandemic. The company is poised to have wild profits going forward and they’re giving us the stiff arm at the table,” said a United Airlines union member to The Washington Post.
Airline Staffers Ready to Strike
Pilots across North America have been inching towards industry-shaking strikes for the last several weeks.
Most recently, Canada’s WestJet Airline pilots issued their 72-hour strike notice on Monday. This means a strike could start as early as Friday, potentially leading to major disruptions for travelers over the Victoria Day holiday weekend.
WestJet pilots are looking for better scheduling and higher pay. Specifically, they want to be paid at a similar rate to their American counterparts.
However, staffers for many American airlines are also ready to fight for higher wages, among other things. Pilots with both Southwest and American Airlines have approved strikes in recent weeks. United Airlines, although they haven’t authorized a strike, spent Friday picketing major airports across the country. Pilots from all three carriers are pushing for higher salaries, better scheduling, and better rules that establish what is expected of each employee on the job.
All of these pilots are pointing to Delta as an example, which recently ratified a $7 billion contract that will raise the wages of their 15,000 pilots by 34% over 4 years.
However, despite the authorizations, an actual walkout is unlikely. In order to legally strike in the U.S., airline workers’ unions have to go through federal mediation with the airlines themselves and that mediator has to decide that negotiation is unproductive and release both sides. Even then, a strike can be blocked by Congress or the president.
However, these strike authorizations are meant to put further pressure on the airlines to come to the table with their pilots and find some solution.
“We kept the airline alive during the pandemic. The company is poised to have wild profits going forward and they’re giving us the stiff arm at the table,” Garth Thompson, chair of the United Master Executive Council of the Air Line Pilots Association, said to the Washington Post.
The response from airlines thus far has been mixed. Southwest said in a statement that the strike authorization vote has absolutely no effect on their operations. Casey Murray, the president of the pilot’s union, said the union will petition mediators to strike because they have been in negotiations with Southwest for more than three years with no solution on the horizon.
American Airlines and its pilots, on the other hand, are much closer to reaching a solution. CEO Robert Isom even said the airline is prepared to match the pay rates of Delta pilots.
“We remain confident that an agreement for our pilots is within reach and can be finalized quickly,” the airline said in a statement. “The finish line is in sight.”