Sexual Harassment, Especially That of Tipped Workers, Remains Widespread in the Restaurant Industry

The sexual harassment of restaurant workers is a massive problem. Studies have shown that, among tipped workers, the number who have been harassed vastly outnumbers those who have not. More than 1 out of every 3 claims the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission receives comes from restaurant workers. Whether your harassment came from coworkers/managers or customers, your employer may be liable for the hostile environment in which you’ve worked and the harm it has caused you. An experienced New York sexual harassment lawyer can help assess your case and map out the next steps toward getting justice for you.

Harassment is prevalent at all varieties of restaurants from fast food to fine dining. As one example of the former, the New York Post recently covered a fast-food manager who sexually assaulted his subordinates. In this instance, the harasser was the new manager at a Pittsburgh-area location of an internationally ubiquitous burger chain and the victim was a 14-year-old subordinate.

He began with comments like telling the girl that he wanted her to be “his Happy Meal.” From there, it escalated to unwanted touching, which continued despite the girl telling the manager to stop. It culminated when the manager followed the girl into the bathroom and forced himself on her.

The girl sued the burger chain franchisee and recently recouped a $4.35 million settlement. (Another underage female worker filed a separate sexual harassment lawsuit after allegedly enduring harassment perpetrated by the same manager. That federal lawsuit names both the franchisee and the burger chain as defendants.)

New York City unfortunately is no stranger to harassment by bosses. This past September, female workers at a fast-casual chain restaurant sued in New York County. Again, the harassment was multifaceted (as it often is,) including both verbal and physical components. The women alleged that they “faced sexual harassment from managers including inappropriate touching, dancing with twerking female subordinates, and comments to and about female employees and customers such as “I would do her,” and “you better be careful how you bend over.”

Harassment and Discrimination

In 2022, the New York Attorney General’s Office investigated a Manhattan bar that allegedly limited new hires to women who were “tall, blonde, [and] beautiful.” The investigation also unearthed an alleged incident in which “a male employee loudly announced the color of a woman bartender’s underwear and graphically stated he would like to have sex with her.”

Additionally, a manager at the bar allegedly “made excuses to go behind the bar and graze his body against” that of a female worker, in addition to kissing the woman on the cheek. The bar eventually settled for $500,000.

New York's fine dining scene has also been a source of sexual harassment. One was a West Village gastropub where the alleged harassers included the pub's owner and one of its investors, a celebrity chef on Food Network. The pub allegedly had a “rape room” on the third floor, where both the owner and investor harassed female workers.

Workers at the pub understood the impossible choice they faced. According to one woman, the pub’s top chef always gave the same answer about the owner’s misconduct. “That’s who he is. Get used to it. Or go work for someone else.”

The Attorney General’s Office eventually secured a $240,000 settlement from the owner. In a separate action, the celebrity chef and his business partner agreed to pay $600,000 to nearly two dozen women who endured sexual harassment at their restaurants.

Many female restaurant workers who speak out against sexual harassment face replies like the woman at the gastropub; namely, “That’s just the way it is. Deal with it or quit.” The law, however, says that you don’t have to simply accept sexual harassment at work, regardless of your job or your industry. Workplace sexual harassment is always inexcusable and you may be entitled to financial compensation if you were the target of this kind of improper workplace conduct. To find out more about your rights and your legal options, get in touch with the diligent and experienced New York sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates to get the advice and advocacy you need. Contact us online or at (866) 229-9441 today to set up a free and confidential consultation.

Related Posts
  • Hip Hop Mogul Diddy is Implicated in Another Sexual Abuse Lawsuit in New York Read More
  • How the Ending Forced Arbitration Act Can Help Workers Harmed by Sexual Harassment and Other Illegal Conduct Read More
  • Ways Employer Responses to a Worker's Complaint of Sexual Harassment Can Impact Employer Liability Read More