Sexual harassment charges against NYC’s Spotted Pig restaurant, owner resolved
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Friday, January 10, 2020

Sexual harassment charges against NYC’s Spotted Pig restaurant, owner resolved

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

Since 2004, The Spotted Pig allegedly maintained a working environment in which the owner/operator and other celebrity customers regularly made sexually explicit comments and gestures toward female staff members.

The owner/operator of New York City’s West Village restaurant, The Spotted Pig, will pay $240,000 and provide a10-year profit sharing arrangement for 11 former employees under a settlement agreement resolving an investigation finding that the restaurant maintained a hostile workplace that subjected female employees to severe and pervasive incidents of unwanted touching and unwelcomed sexual advances.

Sexual harassment publicly exposed. The New York Attorney General’s Office (OAG) launched an investigation after a December 2017 New York Times expose of sexual harassment by the owner/operator, and a May 2018 CBS "60 Minutes" segment featuring additional allegations, according to the Assurance of Discontinuation resolving the matter.

Investigation. Since 2004, The Spotted Pig has maintained a working environment in which the owner/operator and other celebrity customers regularly made sexually explicit comments and gestures toward female staff members, according to the OAG. On more than one occasion, the owner operator forcibly kissed employees and pressured them to send him nude photos.

The restaurant failed to systematically address or take adequate action against this unlawful behavior in response to complaints, and in fact discouraged the reporting of these complaints, the OAG said. Those who did complain were either dismissed or retaliated against by being terminated for false reasons after a complaint was made.

Harassing conduct. The agreement details the alleged unwanted touching, unwelcomed advances, sexualized workplace, and verbal harassment uncovered by the investigation, including the following:

  • A celebrity chef who invested in the restaurant regularly groped female employees and grabbed their breasts and buttocks on multiple occasions.
  • The owner/operator groped female employees and forcibly kissed them on multiple occasions.
  • The owner/operator sent several women who worked for him unwelcome text messages and emails, and requested that female employees send nude photos, which they refused to do.
  • Employees witnessed sexual activity and assaults by the celebrity chef involving third parties at the Spotted Pig. One employee saw him prop up and reach in between the legs of a nearly unconscious woman on the third floor of the restaurant. After seeing this on the security camera, the employee rushed in to separate them.
  • An employee walked in on the celebrity chef performing oral sex on a woman on the third floor of the restaurant, in a semi-public space where staff members regularly went to obtain supplies, take breaks, and count money.
  • The celebrity chef told one employee to "sit on [his friend]’s face," when she served them at the restaurant.
  • The owner/operator repeatedly told a female employee that he had a threesome with her mother.
  • An employee reported that the owner/operator looked down her shirt and said he believed that she wore pushup bras because she had stretch marks.
  • An employee reported that the owner/operator told her that she was the best bartender because "people want to f**k you."

More about the settlement. In addition to providing the monetary relief, The Spotted Pig will implement new policies that inform employees of their legal rights, as well as provide and require training for its employees and managers on anti-sexual harassment, discrimination, hostile work environment, and anti-retaliation protections under the New York State and New York City Human Rights Law.

The owner/operator has also agreed to step down as operator of The Spotted Pig and will no longer have a role or any supervisory authority in the restaurant’s operations or management. He will retain his shares in the company, however, but must share 20 percent of all future profits earned from The Spotted Pig with the former employees and alleged victims of sexual harassment for a 10-year term.

"No matter how high-profile the establishment, or how seemingly powerful the owners, today’s settlement reiterates the fact that we will not tolerate sexual harassment of any form in the workplace," said Attorney General James. "In the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp, victims of workplace harassment and discrimination are standing up and speaking out against injustices that have long been ignored. Every individual deserves to go to work free of fear, abuse, intimidation, and retaliation. I thank the women of The Spotted Pig for their bravery, their voices, and their unwavering commitment to ensuring a safe, harassment-free workplace."

Companies: The Spotted Pig; The Spotted Pig Holding Company LLC

News: AgencyNews Discharge Discrimination SexDiscrimination SexualHarassment Retaliation

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