A 43-year-old woman sued Wonder Bagels in New Jersey, claiming her boss and his brother sexually assaulted her for years.
The sexual abuse began in 2009, three years after the woman was hired at the restaurant.
Issa and Nasser Salloum allegedly corned the woman in the walk-in refrigerator, behind the grill and in the upstairs office and then put their hands up her shirt and down her shirt on a regular basis. The brothers also called the woman “white trash” and other offensive names and asked her questions about her sex life.
“Issa (Salloum) came out and told me he wanted me to do what his wife don’t do, and I asked what was that,” the former restaurant employee said in the lawsuit. “And he told me that — he told me that he wanted to have sex with me, and I was like, ‘I’m not — you know, that’s not happening.'”
The single mother said she did not quit her job because she had two daughters to take care of.
“The threat of termination hanging over the demands for sex were especially fearsome to the Plaintiff,” the lawsuit said, “because of her lack of education and ability to obtain employment.”
The brothers have denied the sexual assault allegations and said the woman quit months after she spilled a pot of coffee on her foot in July 2014.
“We never told her she can’t come back. We never heard from her. We were waiting for her to come back,” Nasser said in a deposition.
However, the plaintiff’s attorney, Brooke Barnett, said the woman was fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim for her injured foot.
Barnett added the plaintiff was inspired to talk about her lawsuit, which was filed last year in Superior Court in Hudson County, because of the “MeToo” movement.
“The reason why I am coming out — I have two daughters, and now two granddaughters, and I don’t want them to go through what I went through,” the plaintiff said. She added that she is taking medication and attending therapy for her depression and anxiety.
The restaurant industry has long been considered a risky environment for female workers, but it has not been talked about much until now. Many more women are coming forward now to talk about how they have been sexually harassed at their restaurant jobs.
Just in October, “Top Chef” and “Food Network” judge John Besh resigned from his New Orleans based restaurant group after an investigation by the Times-Picayune newspaper discovered a culture that involved “vulgar and offensive comments, aggressive unwelcome touching and sexual advances were condoned and sometimes even encouraged by managers and supervisors.”
Employment attorney Maimon Kirschenbaum said that lewd behavior is so accepted in the restaurant industry that some employees do not even recognize when they have endured sexual abuse.
If you live in the Washington, D.C., Maryland, or Virginia areas and have experienced a similar situation, Cohen & Cohen can help. To learn more about how we’ve helped sexual assault victims, read about the Tara Woodley Massage Envy lawsuit.