Chef harassed and fired cooks, federal agency indicted
NEW YORK – A restaurant group that includes Liberty Warehouse, a popular wedding venue in Brooklyn, NY, has agreed to pay $ 125,000 and provide extensive non-monetary relief to settle a filed sex discrimination lawsuit by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. This dining group includes Manhattan restaurants and event spaces called The Water Club, The River CafÃ©, and Pershing Square.
According to the EEOC, the chef at Liberty Warehouse subjected a class of female kitchen workers to sexual harassment and gender discrimination, including unwanted touching, sexual comments, throwing objects at them and belittling because of their sex in front of colleagues. The EEOC alleged that the chef made increases based on an employee sleeping with him. When she refused, he withheld a bonus, stopped giving her hours, and eventually fired her. When she reported the behavior to Liberty Warehouse and asked management to stop the harassment and reinstate her, the company refused.
The EEOC alleged that during this entire period Liberty Warehouse did not have an anti-discrimination policy or training that could have prevented or corrected these illegal acts.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, including sexual harassment, the creation of a hostile work environment and retaliation.
The EEOC filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (EEOC v. Liberty Events, LLC d / b / a Liberty Warehouse., Civil Action No. 20-4631), having first attempted to reach a pre-litigation. settlement through its voluntary conciliation process. This case was argued by EEOC trial attorneys Liane T. Rice and Kirsten Peters, overseen by supervisory trial attorney Sara Smolik.
The three-and-a-half-year consent decree entered on September 16, 2021 includes the creation of a $ 125,000 claim fund for arrears, emotional distress and other damages suffered by aggrieved employees. The decree also includes substantial non-monetary relief, including the creation of anti-discrimination policies; development of training for managers and employees; a requirement that policies and training be provided in English and Spanish; individual training for the chef; removal of the chief’s exclusive authority over hiring, dismissal and remuneration decisions; a period of supervision; and periodic reports to the EEOC.
âThe EEOC is committed to protecting vulnerable food service workers from sexual harassment,â said trial lawyer Liane Rice. “This job depends on employees like the courageous women here who were ready to speak out against the abuse.”
âRestaurants and event spaces ignore inappropriate behavior in their kitchens at their peril,â said EEOC regional attorney Jeffrey Burstein. âBecause such misconduct often involves unlawful discrimination, including not only sexual harassment, but also degrading treatment based on the protected characteristics of an employee. “
EEOC New York District Director Judy Keenan said: âThe best practice is to prevent unlawful discrimination before it happens, through anti-discrimination policies, training, monitoring and commitment to a fair workplace. “
The EEOC New York District Office is responsible for handling discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in New York City, northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
The EEOC advances opportunities in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.