Sexual Harassment In the Restaurant Industry

By Douglas Lipsky

Sexual harassment exists in every industry, but it is more prevalent in a few. On May 20, 2018, 60 Minutes aired a piece on sexual harassment in the restaurant industry focusing on claims against Mario Batali and the Spotted Pig Restaurant.

In that 60 Minutes segment, several women accuse Mario Batali of sexually harassing them and a few accuse of him of what constitutes sexual assault.  The restaurant industry unfortunately sees a disproportionate number of sexual harassment claims: managers sexually harassing waiters; customers sexually harassing waiters and the managers knowing about it and doing nothing; and in the case of Mario Batali, an owner sexually harassing waiters.

Many reasons exist for this but the most common explanation relates to the power dynamic in a kitchen. Many chefs run their kitchens in a near-dictatorial manner. This gives the impression that they can do whatever they want to whomever. They cannot.

A chef, manager and owner are violating the New York State Human Rights Law, the New York City Human Rights Law and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when they sexually harass workers. Different standards exist to make a claim under these statutes which are addressed here [insert link]. No worker – regardless of industry – should have to endure sexual harassment.

It is equally unlawful if customers are sexually harassing an employee and the owners or managers knew about it or should have known about it. Just because some one is serving you does not give you a sexual harassment license.

Another question that often emerges in these cases is why the employees waited to come forward. This is often – as in the case with Mario Batali – they were scared to lose their job. Also, some individuals blame themselves: that they let this happen and adopt almost a “victim” mentality. They are not to blame.

Sexual harassment claims involve sensitive issues and complex questions. That is why it is important to contact a sexual harassment lawyer as soon as possible. A sexual harassment lawyer will know what questions to ask and how to best navigate the situation.

About the Author
Douglas Lipsky is a co-founding partner of Lipsky Lowe LLP. He has extensive experience in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of contract, unpaid overtime, and unpaid tips. He also represents clients in complex wage and hour claims, including collective actions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions under the laws of many different states. If you have questions about this article, contact Douglas today.