New York City Lawsuit Alleges Sexual Harassment by Celebrity Chef, Highlights Problems in the Restaurant Business

New York City is famed throughout the world for its restaurants, which offer a truly global selection of cuisine. Even the most glamorous restaurants in the city, however, are often anything but glamorous for many of the people who work there. Sexual harassment in New York City restaurants might soon gain as much notoriety as the city’s restaurants have gained fame. Renewed attention to Hollywood’s culture of sexual harassment and abuse has brought the issues of other industries in other cities to light, including the New York City food scene. A lawsuit filed this summer against a famous Manhattan hotel offers multiple examples of New York City sexual harassment in the service industry, and the ensuing months have brought further claims against restaurants and their chefs.

Federal, state, and local anti-discrimination laws identify two categories of sexual harassment, both of which are frequently present in the restaurant business. The first category, known as quid pro quo sexual harassment, involves requests or demands for sexual contact in some form in exchange for a job, or for preferable shift assignments and other features of employment. It often also involves overt or implied threats to one’s job if the requests are denied. The second category, hostile work environment, consists of unwelcome remarks, jokes, overtures, and other actions of a sexual nature that are pervasive or severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform one’s job duties. The conduct can range from offensive jokes to outright sexual assault.

Numerous features of the restaurant business seem to lend themselves to sexual harassment by supervisors, managers, coworkers, and customers. While sexual harassment is not limited to harassment of female servers and hostesses by men, that is perhaps the archetypal example, and it probably constitutes a substantial amount of the sexual harassment that occurs in New York City restaurants:

– Competition among servers for the most lucrative shifts can often be fierce, and some supervisors may take advantage of that competition in sexually harassing ways.
– Many restaurant owners believe that only women can perform hosting duties at the front of a restaurant, with one woman describing her job duties to the New York Post as being “part of the decor.”
– Customers may believe that servers are there to entertain them in addition to taking their food orders, and management may not stand up for the servers when a customer’s behavior becomes harassing.
– The general atmosphere of many restaurants can be very male-centered, something that celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain has described as “meathead culture.”

People who experience these types of harassment are often reluctant to speak out, for fear of losing their jobs or losing opportunities to advance in their careers.

In a claim filed in a Manhattan state court in October 2017, a female server alleges that a famous chef subjected her to a series of harassing incidents, including both sexual comments and unwanted hugging and kissing. She further alleges harassment by other servers at the restaurant. Her allegations are part of a larger lawsuit that was originally filed in August by six female hotel employees and described the hotel’s work environment as “rape culture.”

If you have a question about sexual harassment or other unlawful workplace practices in New York City, contact the sexual harassment lawyers at Phillips & Associates online or at (212) 248-7431 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Server Alleges Sexual Harassment in New York Federal Lawsuit Against Restaurant, New York Employment Attorney Blog, May 31, 2017

New Report Exposes Widespread Nature of Sexual Harassment in the Restaurant Industry, New York Employment Attorney Blog, August 17, 2015

Former Maitre D’ at Manhattan Restaurant Sues for Sexual Harassment, Retaliation, New York Employment Attorney Blog, July 15, 2015

Contact Information