The likes of John Besh and Ken Friedman dominated media coverage of the hospitality industry’s #MeToo moment over the past two years. However, progress has also been steady on a grassroots level. In a landmark settlement, a Florida bartender was just awarded $80,000 for back pay and damages in the wake of a sexual harassment complaint against one fine dining establishment.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a complaint against Orlando’s Christini’s Ristorante Italiano and owner Chris Christakos aka Chris Christini on behalf of bartender Jameslyn Marcisz last fall. Marcisz alleged that she was forcibly trapped behind the bar; instructed to dress “date ready” and “sexy”; offered to patrons for dates; subject to repeated sexual innuendo; and then told to “get the f*ck out” by Christini after filing a grievance with ownership.
The legal proceeding concluded after Christini’s agreed to a settlement will the EEOC. As detailed in this consent decree, the restaurant will pay Marcisz $10,000 in back wages and $70,000 in damages. Christini’s also was instructed to provide a “positive reference” to potential employers for the bartender according to the EEOC.
The settlement included several measures to curtail harassment moving forward stated the agency. Christini’s agreed to develop and distribute an anti-harassment policy as well as post a public notice explaining the suit and settlement for all staff to see explained a statement from the EEOC.
In addition, the Decreed ordered the eatery to pay for all employees and ownership to undergo mandatory anti-harassment training approved by EEOC. (The Commission noted that social media must be included in this course.) Finally, Christini’s consented to hire a third party service to operate a telephone hotline for employees to report incidents of discrimination and harassment.
Chris Christini received one benefit from the settlement. The owner was allowed to officially deny the accusations against him without a ruling from the bench.
Michael Farrell, Director of the EEOC’s Miami District commented, “Federal law is abundantly clear that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. Employers who ignore anti-discrimination laws should be on notice that they do so at their own peril.”
The #MeToo movement was followed by a clear uptick in harassment complaints nationally. The EEOC filed 66 harassment suits in 2018, 41 of them specifically alleging sexual harassment. That’s an increase in excess of 50% over 2017.
Christini’s is located in Orlando’s “Restaurant Row.” The high end eatery serves standard Italian-American fare and it’s walls are decorated with photographs of celebrity patrons.