Yet another high profile sexual harassment case faces the Cheesecake Factory. According to the Tampa Tribune, Michael Knight, a 42-year-old employee at the Cheesecake Factory’s Westfield mall location in Brandon, Florida, has filed a federal suit against his employer for “mental anguish and loss of dignity.” According to an attorney for Mr. Knight, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has outlined evidence demonstrating that Knight was harassed by male line chefs and retaliated against for complaining about the abuse. The EEOC stated that he “was subjected to severe sexual harassment and that the sexually hostile environment was pervasive.”
The Tribune detailed one instance of the alleged harassment. Knight had been preparing meatloaf for a customer, when one of his employees topped the dish with a sanitary pad. Knight took the practical joke to his quality assurance supervisor, who simply “smirked” at the harassment.
Knight says that he was mocked, punished and then finally fired in September 2008 because of his complaining about the harassment.
The EEOC recently investigated a very similar case against a Cheesecake Factory in Arizona. The EEOC in that case found that “overwhelmingly… the men suffered sexually abusive behavior, including abusers directly touching victims’ genitals, making sexually charged remarks, grinding their genitals against them, and forcing victims into repeated episodes of simulated rape.”
The Cheesecake Factory has denied the Arizona allegations and has not yet responded to Knight’s federal suit.
Unfortunately for line cooks, waiters, dishwashers, and other restaurant employees who are subjected to harassment, discrimination, retaliation on the job, help often seems hopelessly far away. After all, when you are immersed in a culture of harassment, you may feel alone and without recourse — particularly if your supervisor or manager refuses to intervene to end the bad behavior… or even actively participates in it.
The good news is that you don’t have to battle through this on your own. Contact Joseph & Kirschenbaum at www.jhllp.com or (212) 688-5640 to get a complimentary and confidential consultation about your sexual harassment or retaliation matter.