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Food Service Workers Reveal Culture of Harassment and Misconduct at Terranea

Terranea is facing a string of employee complaints

Terranea Resort
Terranea Resort
Mona Holmes is a reporter for Eater Los Angeles and a regular contributor to KCRW radio. She has covered restaurants, dining, and food culture since 2016. In 2022, the James Beard Foundation nominated her for a Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award.

A group of former workers at the ritzy Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes recently spoke out about the company’s alleged culture of abuse and sexual harassment in a new article from the Guardian. These accusations are the most recent string of complaints against the Palos Verdes resort and conference center, after Terranea was accused of exploiting foreign workers and wage theft in 2017.

The full tally of victims include a former Terranea dishwasher, chef’s assistant, cafe barista, and housekeepers. Sandra Pezqueda filed a sexual harassment and assault lawsuit in 2017 against her staffing agency, Excellent Maintenance Service, and Terranea. In the original complaint filed in 2016, Pezqueda described a supervisor continuously asking the former dishwasher and chef’s assistant on dates, and taking away shifts if she ignored his text messages. She claimed that the harassment continued, along with an alleged assault on Terranea’s grounds where no cameras were present. The staffing agency settled for $250,000, and Pezqueda was featured as one of Time Magazine’s silence breakers in 2017. According the Guardian, Terranea was “cleared of any wrongdoing” in the case.

The same supervisor that Pezqueda complained about is the target of similar complaints from former dishwasher Monica Sanchez. She worked at Terranea for two years and described a similar pattern, with grabbing, and using shifts as a reward system. Sanchez says she complained to management with no results, and eventually quit. But this supervisor and his friend purportedly continued to contact Sanchez for one year via text and Facebook, according to her complaint.

Sharon Merino began working as a barista at a Terranea cafe in 2017. Her alleged harassment came from a maintenance worker, and she says she found little support when reporting his conduct to human resources, who allegedly stated, “Maybe you didn’t tell him firmly enough.” Meanwhile another manager allegedly suggested that Merina not discuss the situation at home. According to The Guardian, this supervisor still works at Terranea.

As part of the Sanchez lawsuit, three former housekeepers claimed through a sworn affidavit that management ignored their complaints concerning harassment from resort guests.