NEW YORK – The head chef at Liberty Warehouse, a popular Brooklyn, N.Y., wedding venue, subjected female kitchen staff to sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed yesterday.
The EEOC’s lawsuit alleges that since at least 2015, Liberty Warehouse’s head chef has subjected a class of female kitchen staff to sexual harassment and sex discrimination that included throwing objects at them, belittling them, and making them serve beer to their male coworkers.
According to the EEOC, one such female cook was sexually harassed by the chef through unwanted touching and sexual comments. He denied her raises routinely awarded to other employees until she became the lowest-paid cook in the kitchen. He said her raises depended on her being “nice” to him. When she refused to sleep with him, he withheld her bonus check, stopped assigning her hours, and fired her in retaliation. The suit alleges that when she reported his behavior to Liberty Warehouse and asked them to stop the harassment and reinstate her, the company refused to do so.
The EEOC also alleges that throughout this period, Liberty Warehouse lacked an anti-discrimination policy or training that might have prevented or corrected these unlawful acts.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual harassment, the creation of a hostile work environment, and retaliation.
The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York (EEOC v. Liberty Events, LLC d/b/a Liberty Warehouse., Civil Action No. 20-4631), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking injunctive relief that would require Liberty Warehouse to create anti-discrimination policies and train its employees. The EEOC seeks lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages, and other affirmative relief for the harmed employees. The agency’s litigation effort will be led by Trial Attorney Liane T. Rice, supervised by Supervisory Trial Attorney Raechel Adams.
“For years, while wedding guests were upstairs celebrating, Liberty Warehouse’s chef was downstairs, sexually harassing the female kitchen staff,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein. “Sexual harassment in the food service industry is a known problem that EEOC is dedicated to tackling.”
The EEOC’s New York District director, Judy Keenan, added, “On our website, employers can find many helpful resources on how to prevent and appropriately handle sexual harassment issues in their workplaces, including our guidance on ‘Promising Practices for Preventing Harassment.’ An employer is liable when it has failed to take appropriate action to prevent this kind of abuse.”
The EEOC’s New York District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in New York, northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.