Waiter Sues Manhattan Resaurant for Sexual Harassment, Claims Celebrity Chef Did Nothing to Protect Employees

A former assistant waiter at Babbo, a trendy Manhattan restaurant, has claimed in a lawsuit that co-workers subjected him to an ongoing campaign of sexual harassment and abuse before he quit his job at the restaurant. Eugene Gibbons, an aspiring actor in his early 20’s, further alleges that management, including celebrity chef Mario Batali, knew of the abuse and did nothing to intervene or protect him.

Gibbons says the harassment began in January 2011. He alleges that a group of his co-workers would hit him on the buttocks and grab at his genitals on at least a weekly basis. He also claims they made inappropriate and offensive remarks, including one co-worker who allegedly claimed that he would masturbate to Gibbons’ picture at night. Gibbons allegedly injured his back in September 2011 because a co-worker poked him while he was carrying a tub, startling him. He quit his job at Babbo in December.

Gibbons filed suit in New York Criminal Court in late December against various co-workers, Babbo, and two other corporations owned by Batali, claiming unlawful sexual harassment and retaliation. He claims that Batali, Batali’s partner Joseph Bastianich, and other managers knew about the harassment but took no preventive actions. By allowing the abuse to continue, Gibbons claims, Batali and others may be deemed to have encouraged the abuse. Gibbons also alleges that management retaliated against him for reporting the harassment by refusing to assign him shifts and otherwise interfering with his ability to do his job duties. He says he reported the abuse to management repeatedly, but to no avail. The suit does not specify an amount of damages, but requests damages for back pay and “emotional distress.”

The case has been the talk of New York’s more tabloid-esque newspapers. Restaurants in general, it seems, are no strangers to sexual harassment claims. MSNBC conducted a review late last year of statistics on sexual harassment claims. It found that thirty-seven percent of suits reported by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in the first nine months of 2011 occurred in restaurants or other food service businesses.

This case may stand out for some from a typical story of sexual harassment because the alleged victim is male. Sexual harassment is an unlawful form of gender discrimination, in which a person is singled out or otherwise discriminated against due to their gender, and this applies regardless of the specific person’s gender. Men may be less likely to speak up about sexual harassment for a variety of reasons, but it certainly happens in restaurants and other workplaces everywhere.

Gibbons’ case also brings up the question of unlawful retaliation. Employment laws require workers who believe they have experienced discrimination or harassment to first go through their employer’s internal procedures for handling complaints. If that process fails to resolve the matter, then they may report the matter to the EEOC or the state or city equal employment agencies. Employers may not discriminate against an employee for reporting a suspected act of discrimination or harassment, as that only compounds the hostility of the work environment.

The New York sexual harassment lawyers at Phillips & Associates represent victims of workplace sexual harassment and retaliation and fight to protect their rights. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, contact the firm today online or at (212) 248-7431.

More Blog Posts:

Blockbuster Settles Harassment and Discrimination Suit for $2 Million, New York Employment Attorney Blog, January 3, 2012
Former NBA Security Employee Sues League for Unlawful Retaliation, New York Employment Attorney Blog, December 28, 2011
Sexual Harassment at Office Holiday Parties, New York Employment Attorney Blog, December 20, 2011

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