Sexual harassment is pervasive in the restaurant service and hospitality industries in the United States, and more claims of sexual harassment are reported in this sector than in any other.
According to a survey conducted by One Fair Wage in 2021, over 70% of female restaurant employees have been sexually harassed at least once while working in the industry, with 44% claiming they were subjected to sexual harassment by a manager or proprietor.
According to a survey conducted by Restaurant Opportunities Centers United in May 2018, 34% of women who formerly worked as tipped restaurant employees quit their employment due to sexual harassment.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, worker organizations and unions have advocated for legislation to protect workers from sexual harassment on the job, including local legislation mandating panic buttons for hospitality industry employees.
However, large corporations, such as JC Resorts, have invested millions to oppose initiatives that would require panic buttons for hospitality employees.
McDonald’s, as well as restaurants owned and operated by celebrity chef Mario Batali, have been the subject of high-profile litigation and allegations of allowing a workplace culture in which sexual harassment is tolerated and victims are retaliated against.
Abuse examples are common.
When four young women began working at the Los Serranos Golf Club in Chino Hills, California, a country club and two-golf course resort located in one of the wealthiest suburbs of Los Angeles, they were immediately subjected to sexual harassment by the resort’s senior chef. During their employment from 2021 to 2022, the harassment progressively intensified.
The club is managed by JC Resorts, a southern California-based luxury resort proprietor and operator.
Recently, Jalyn Ito, Reagan Coburn, Daniela Serna, and Ariana Tan filed lawsuits against the club and JC Resorts, alleging that they were subjected to pervasive sexual harassment on the job. They claim that after filing formal complaints with the human resources department, an investigation was conducted and the chef was demoted, but the women were forced to continue working with him and were subjected to retaliatory conduct.
In 2021, at the age of 17, Ariana Tan began working as a line cook in the canteen of the Los Serranos Golf Club. Two chefs made sexually inappropriate remarks about her and other women working at the club throughout her entire employment.
Tan stated, “I felt extremely traumatized by this entire experience.” The fact that I and the other females are so young and challenging such a massive corporation should serve as a warning to employers that the younger generation is sick of being marginalized and will not tolerate misogyny at work.
She characterized the necessity of holding those in authority accountable for inaction and addressing the fact that sexual harassment in the workplace is not taken seriously by employers.
“I felt as if I were at the top of a burning building, pleading for assistance, but no one heard us. She added, “I had the impression that human resources didn’t care about us and that we weren’t important to them. I felt worthless there.” “Because I work there full-time, all of my bills, rent, car payments, and food are covered by this employment. Having to be there so often, you just have to go home with the mentality of keeping your head down to continue working to pay your rent or buy food, and it’s emotionally draining to go in and work every day.”
Tan alleges in her lawsuit that a chef made frequent comments about her physical appearance, engaged in inappropriate touching, and made her feel constantly uncomfortable with their behavior and remarks, from offering to bring her high heels to comparing female banquet servers to another chef in a sexually explicit manner.
Tan was required to continue working alongside the chef in the kitchen, where they escalated their aggressive and predatory behavior toward her, including slamming pots and pans near her, finding reasons to brush up against her, and continuing to make sexually inappropriate comments within her hearing range.
Jalyn Ito, Reagan Coburn, and Daniela Serna began working as banquet stewards at the Los Serranos Golf Club between the ages of 19 and 20 in 2021. The chef became immediately obsessed with them, making suggestive remarks and questioning them about their romantic affairs.
Daniela Serna stated, “I felt extremely anxious, ignored, angry, and helpless due to my employer’s manipulation and my employer’s response,” which made her feel extremely manipulated, ignored, and angry.
When all four women filed formal complaints with the club’s general manager and human resources, they were assured that the complaints would be taken seriously and action would be taken. However, this did not occur.
“It felt like a betrayal. Simply entering that location has left me feeling lost, and recalling all the falsehoods and memories has caused great harm to all of us. Ito stated, “In our experience, we did not feel secure in the workplace, heard, or cared for, which is something that every employee desires. “We feel dejected as we walk to work, looking at the managers and frustrated that they did not listen to us.”
Each of the four women who complained with the California Department of Civil Rights in December 2022 received an immediate right-to-sue letter. The women are represented by Lauren Teukolsky of Teukolsky Law and Zoe Tucker of Unite Here Local 11, a union of service and hospitality workers that has previously led lawsuits against JC Resorts locations for sexual harassment in the workplace.
Coburn stated, “We just want young women to be able to have power and feel heard because we feel that we were not heard.” We want employers to understand that they cannot get away with such conduct.
A spokesperson for JC Resorts stated in an email, “At JC Resorts, we care about our employees’ welfare and success on the job. JC Resorts has not been served with the particular lawsuits. However, we treat all allegations of employee misconduct extremely seriously, conduct exhaustive investigations, and implement appropriate discipline based on the evidence.”