#ExposeThePepper: Workers at Chili’s allege routine sexual harassment, bullying and exploitation

October 15, 2021

A group of workers at Chili’s in Florida and California is organizing to fight against what it says are patterns of sexual harassment, bullying, labor abuse and exploitation within the restaurant. 

For years, the workers say that Chili’s management has failed to address such serious complaints in the workplace. Each time they press the management for accountability, they face a pattern of isolation, evasion—ignoring their stories—and retaliation.

One of the Chili’s workers, Alexandra Torres, along with the Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United, launched #ExposeThePepper, a campaign to mobilize current and past workers who have experienced harassment, abuse and retaliation at Chili’s.

The campaign hopes to gather stories and expose unsafe and abusive working conditions at Chili’s, amid the time when workers are not yet fully returning to work due to low wages and lack of job protections during the pandemic. 

ROC United will be launching a texting hotline this week. Called the “Spiceline,” this confidential hotline will allow Chili’s workers to safely share their stories and report their complaints. As part of organizing efforts, ROC United will help these workers address their concerns and take the necessary steps. Chili’s workers can report their concerns by texting CHILIS to 40817.

Most importantly, according to the Chili’s workers, the campaign aims to demand the management for greater accountability and respond immediately to such complaints. The workers will launch the Spiceline on Wednesday, October 20th, when Chili’s will be holding a virtual investor’s day— a public meeting where presentations are made by Chili’s CEO and other VIPs in front of a live audience..   

On May 18, 2021, Torres, who is leading the #ExposeThePepper campaign, posted a video on TikTok, sharing her concerns about the horrendous working conditions at Chili’s. The video went viral, gaining more than 1.5 million views.

“So many people [have already] come forward and reported cases of [sexual] harassment, bullying and exploitation to the HR Department of Brinker International,” Torres said. “But everything has fallen on deaf ears.”

Chili’s, the flagship brand of Brinker International, has more than 100,000 workers from about 800 locations across the United States. Every year, Chili’s serves roughly 281 million customers.