A former waitress at a popular Melville Long Island Restaurant is suing the restaurant, its owners, manager, a CFO, and its former executive chef for sexual harassment and retaliation. Faith Sunshine Cardino claims in her December 2016 suit filed in US District Court that the former chef repeatedly touched her in an inappropriate manner and that when she complained to the restaurant management, she was called a “liar,” and “drug addict” and was eventually fired.
Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, New York State Human Rights Law and New York City Human Rights Law prohibit employment discrimination based on sex. Sexual harassment is considered a form of sex discrimination and includes quid pro quo and hostile work environment. Quid pro quo harassment occurs when a co-worker, usually a superior, conditions an aspect of a subordinate’s employment on performance or non-performance of a sexual act. For instance, your manager threatens to take away your best sales territory if you refuse to sleep with her. Quid pro quo harassment can occur between members of the opposite sex or same sex.
Sex harassment is also unlawful when it creates a hostile working environment. To do this, the behavior, such as unwanted touching, propositions, jokes, lewd comments or pictures, must be pervasive enough to cause a reasonable person to feel uncomfortable or threatened. This type of sexual harassment can be the result of ongoing conduct by one or more co-workers, and the victim does not necessarily have to be an intended target.
The same laws also prohibit retaliation. Retaliation is when an employer makes a decision that adversely affects someone’s job because that individual reported or tried to stop discrimination. For instance, you tell the CEO of the company for which you work that your supervisor is sexually harassing you. Your supervisor subsequently gives you a poor performance review that results in the loss of your yearly bonus.
Cardino claims that when she began working at the restaurant Jewel in October 2014, the executive chef at the time immediately started calling her things such as “hot” and “gorgeous.” She alleges that he repeatedly subjected her to inappropriate touching including one “unbearable” incident in December 2015 when he grabbed her from behind and rubbed against her. Cardino alleges that she informed the restaurant’s management who did nothing to punish the chef. Instead, they determined that her complaints were unsubstantiated.
Cardino also says that after complaining, her manager began retaliating against her by cutting her hours and telling other workers not to ask Cardino to cover shifts for them. In January 2016, mid-shift, the restaurant manager and owner pulled her into a meeting where she was called a liar and addict. The company CFO later accused her of making up the allegations of sexual harassment. The restaurant terminated her employment on Feb 10, 2016.
The chef stated that he was “surprised” by the filing of the lawsuit. He told Newsday “It went from one solitary complaint that was investigated [in-house] and found to be unfounded.” The defendants to the action said through their lawyer, “The restaurant is confident that once all of the evidence is presented and considered, these claims will be dismissed.”
Cases like Cardino’s get filed all the time. It is not just restaurant employees who experience sexual harassment. Workers of any gender in all industries can be subjected to unwelcome touching and inappropriate sexual comments or innuendo. Cardino did the sensible thing by complaining to management about the behavior and hopefully kept good records of each event that led to her allegations. How her claim reaches resolution remains to be seen.
If you are an employee who has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, contact Leeds Brown Law, P.C., representing clients on Long Island, New York City, and the surrounding counties. We have spent decades fighting for the rights of employees and helping file claims when employers violate them. You can reach a sexual harassment attorney at Leeds Brown by calling 1-800-585-4658 today.