According to the New York Post, the owner of New York City’s eatery Rue La Rue is being sued by his former personal assistant for sexual harassment.
The restaurant in Washington Heights officially opened its doors in February 2017 and garnered buzz for its unique theme which pays homage to the beloved television show “The Golden Girls.” The restaurant is full of memorabilia from the series about four aging women sharing a home in Florida, and its name honors one of its stars, the late Rue McClanahan. The Post reports that McClanahan, who played Blanche Devereaux, and owner Michael J. LaRue were close friends and he opened the eatery with her son Mark Bish.
Henry Campbell, the plaintiff in the case filed in New York Supreme Court, began working for La Rue and the restaurant in October 2016. According to the Post, Campbell’s complaint contains allegations that La Rue would regularly discuss his sexual preferences with Campbell including how “in demand” he was. Campbell also accuses La Rue of discussing his genitals “on a near daily basis,” and touching Campbell’s backside. Court papers also claim that La Rue frequently made comments about Campbell’s appearance and body, for example, telling him that he had a “muffin top.”
Campbell alleges that when he complained about the sexual harassment, his boss fired him in retaliation for doing so. La Rue contradicted this when he told the Post that he terminated Campbell’s employment because he was “inept” and could not perform his job. La Rue added that Campbell filed the lawsuit because La Rue refused to give him money to help him with his rent. In his defense, La Rue said: “There’s no truth or substance to me sexually harassing him.”
New York City, New York State, and Federal laws all prohibit employment discrimination, which includes sexual harassment, in the workplace. Sexual harassment occurs when conduct is unwelcome, and it is pervasive or severe enough to create a hostile work environment. Unwelcome conduct can be verbal or physical and may include:
Sexual harassment of this nature is unlawful if it would make a reasonable person feel uncomfortable, threatened or unsafe. It may interfere with a victim’s ability to do his or her job or remain employed.
The same laws that prohibit discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace prohibit retaliation against an employee who complains about them. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, New York State Human Rights Law and New York City Human Rights Law forbid any employer from “punishing” someone for trying to stop the harassment. Whether you try confronting the harasser directly, going to a supervisor or human resources representative, filing a claim with an administrative agency or initiating a lawsuit, your employer may not retaliate against you. Retaliation can include any adverse employment action such as terminating, refusing to give a deserved raise or giving an unjustifiably negative performance review.
Many people believe that the laws only prohibit sexual harassment when the parties are of different genders or when men harass women. However, the number of complaints filed by people who allege they are sexually harassed by women increases every year, as does the number of same-sex allegations. The laws prohibit sexual harassment when it occurs between people of the same or different genders and regardless of the gender of the harasser.
In the case of Henry Campbell, it is of no consequence that he and La Rue are both males. The issues remain the same. Did La Rue sexually harass Campbell? Did the behavior create a hostile environment for Campbell? Did La Rue fire Campbell in retaliation for his complaints about the conduct?
If you are sexually harassed at work, you don’t have to handle the situation alone. Leeds Brown Law, P.C., representing employees in New York City and the surrounding metropolitan area, has decades of experience helping workers file claims to recover damages when their employers violate their rights. Contact our office for a free case evaluation. Someone is available to take your call 24/7 at 1-800-585-4658.