Five female kitchen workers filed a lawsuit against McCormick & Schmick’s in Boston for not doing anything to stop male co-workers from sexually harassing them. They are seeking damages for emotional and mental distress.
The women claimed in the lawsuit that their male co-workers frequently touched them inappropriately and made sexual comments toward them. They complained to their supervisors about the harassment, but got brushed off. When they finally brought up their complaints to human resources, the company disciplined the male employees but didn’t accept the conduct as sexual harassment.
According to the lawsuit, one of the chefs in the restaurant approached a female dishwasher in 2014 and rubbed her back and put his arm around her waist. He then said to her in Spanish, “Ay mami, do not lose faith, one day you will marry me.”
Plaintiff Fabiana Santos, who worked as a prep cook for the seafood restaurant, spoke through a translator at a news conference Tuesday about how she received unwanted touching from a male dishwasher.
“The disgusting things that happened to me made me feel dirty,” she said. “And when I got home, I didn’t even want my kids to touch me.”
The lawsuit sheds light on the sexual harassment and abuse women in low-wage hospitality positions deal with all the time.
“These are positions that society often overlooks,” Sophia Hall, an attorney for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, said. “These women are particularly vulnerable, with limited English and no access to an effective reporting procedure. They suffered daily and in humiliating ways.”
Julia Liebelt said in a statement that the company doesn’t take sexual harassment lightly and they did all they could to make the workplace a harassment-free atmosphere.
“Like most companies, we are not immune from bad characters,” she explained. “The plaintiffs’ lawyers have latched on to the current frenzy concerning sexual harassment and filed a lawsuit citing inflammatory allegations that conflicted with statements of their own clients and that at least one independent eyewitness identified during our investigation said was untrue.”
This isn’t the first time a restaurant has been sued for sexual harassment. In September, two Illinois IHOP restaurants were accused of sexual misconduct. The male general manager and at least two cooks at the Glen Carbon IHOP allegedly sexually harassed at least 11 female employees.
The lawsuit claims the female employees dealt with “unlawful sexual harassment including regular and repeated sexual touching and grabbing, lewd sexual comments and requests for sex, and offensive and threatening gestures.”
The lawsuit also alleges the male general manager at the Alton IHOP made lewd comments to a male employee and asked him for sex. The owners and managers at both restaurants reportedly knew about the sexual harassment and didn’t do anything to stop it.