A former bartender at a Manhattan Chinese restaurant has filed a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment and assault. Yvonne Diaz’s suit against the upscale Chin Chin accuses the restaurant’s staff and its owner, Jimmy Chin, of a widespread pattern of harassing and abusive behavior, as well as conduct involving the restaurant’s food that would likely violate city health ordinances. Chin has denied all of her allegations, calling them “frivolous.”
Diaz began working at Chin Chin as a bartender in 2007. The restaurant boasts a number of high-end and celebrity customers, and elicits descriptions like “posh” and “tony.” The atmosphere described by Diaz in her complaint, however, would not call such words to mind. She alleges that, from the time she began working there until she left in October 2011, co-workers subjected her to a hostile and harassing work environment through both verbal and physical assaults. In addition to sexist remarks, she endured groping by co-workers on a regular basis, which included direct contact by one employee with his genital area. She alleges that kitchen workers would hold oranges to their chests and taunt her, presumably trying to simulate breasts.
The incidents that Diaz describes that have received a great deal of media attention involve the kitchen staff’s creative preparation of dumplings. Diaz says that, at least three times a week, kitchen staff would form dumplings into the shape of a phallus and then hold them in their crotch areas. Many of these same dumplings would then find their way into customers’ dishes. Media reports do not indicate whether New York City health inspectors have investigated these allegations, or if they plan to do so.
Diaz further alleges that the staff would screen X-rated movies every Sunday in the restaurant’s kitchen “without exception.” She claims that co-workers would make sexist comments about famous customers at the restaurant, and that she overheard the owner make both sexist and racist comments about certain customers.
Diaz’s lawsuit, filed on April 11, 2012 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleges unlawful sexual harassment and other violations of employment anti-discrimination laws. She is seeking an unspecified amount of damages. The court has not made her complaint available to the public.
The law considers sexual harassment to be a form of gender discrimination, since it typically involves singling out on an employee for disparate treatment based on that employee’s gender. Although the popular conception of sexual harassment is of male supervisors or co-workers harassing female employees, it can occur with female workers harassing male workers, or with one or more workers harassing another worker of the same gender. Any of those situations still amount to disparate treatment based on gender. As such, they are prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal statute that deals with employment discrimination. Title VII addresses employment discrimination based on factors including gender, race, religion, and others. Both state and municipal laws also prohibit these kinds of employment discrimination in New York City.
The New York sexual harassment lawyers at Phillips & Associates represent victims of workplace sexual harassment and discrimination, fighting to protect their rights. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431.
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Photo credit: ‘Nangua Baozi (chinese dumplings)’ by J. Samuel Burner [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.