A restaurant group that includes Liberty Warehouse, a popular Brooklyn, N.Y. wedding venue, agreed to pay $125,000 and provide extensive non-monetary relief to settle a sexual harassment and sex discrimination lawsuit. That restaurant group includes the Manhattan restaurants and event spaces called The Water Club, The River Café, and Pershing Square.
Liberty Warehouse’s head chef subjected a class of female kitchen staff to sexual harassment and sex discrimination that included unwanted touching, sexual comments, throwing objects at them, and belittling them based on their sex in front of coworkers. I was alleged the head chef made raises contingent on a female employee sleeping with him. When she refused, he withheld a bonus, stopped assigning her hours, and ultimately fired her. When she reported this behavior to Liberty Warehouse and asked management to stop the harassment and reinstate her, the company refused.
It was further alleged throughout this period, Liberty Warehouse lacked an anti-discrimination policy or training that might have prevented or corrected these unlawful acts.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual harassment, the creation of a hostile work environment, and retaliation.
The three-and-a-half-year consent decree entered on September 16, 2021 includes the creation of a $125,000 claims fund for backpay, emotional distress, and other damages suffered by the harmed employees. The decree also includes substantial non-monetary relief, including the creation of anti-discrimination policies; development of trainings for managers and employees; a requirement that policies and trainings be provided in English and Spanish; one-on-one training for the chef; removal of the chef’s sole authority over hiring, firing, and pay decisions; a monitoring period; and periodic reporting to the EEOC.
“Restaurants and event spaces ignore improper behavior in their kitchens at their own risk,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein. “For such misconduct often involves unlawful discrimination, including not only sexual harassment but also demeaning treatment based on an employee’s protected characteristics.”
Robert Maizel is an Experienced Trial Attorney and Employment Discrimination Attorney in Philadelphia, Pa. with over twenty years of trial experience.
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