Five female workers filed a sexual harassment lawsuit Tuesday against upscale seafood chain McCormick & Schmick’s, alleging constant groping and verbal abuse from male supervisors and co-workers, including the executive chef, at the company’s restaurant near Faneuil Hall in Boston.
Fair Work P.C. and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice filed the lawsuit on behalf of Santiago Cruz, Gladys Fuentes, Milagro Alvarez, Fabiana Santos, and Marta Romero in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston.
The women worked at the restaurant as dishwashers, prep cooks, and cleaners.
The charges were detailed throughout the suit.
They included: A chef grabbing his crotch and telling one of the women, “This is your food.” Another incident says a woman was trapped and groped in a walk-in cooler by a sous chef and supervisor. Another alleges a coworker rubbed his groin against a woman’s back while pinning her against a table. A supervisor and coworker are also accused of making graphic comments about oral sex.
Fuentes told The Boston Globe in a statement: “The harassment that I endured made me feel humiliated. When I get home, all I can do is think about what has happened. I cry a lot. I cannot sleep at night.”
Cruz added in a statement: “I feel like I am being treated like a prostitute.”
In a statement reported by The Boston Herald, the restaurant chain said: “McCormick and Schmick’s strives to maintain a harassment-free environment. When harassment of any type is reported, we take matters seriously and immediately investigate, resulting in swift, appropriate action.”
The statement added that “an offending employee was immediately terminated, among other disciplinary actions” when the complaints were raised in 2015.
According to the Herald, McCormick & Schmick’s said that anti-discrimination authorities declined to take the case and said the plaintiff’s lawyers “have latched on to the current frenzy concerning sexual harassment and filed a lawsuit citing inflammatory allegations that conflicted with statements of their own clients and that at least one independent eyewitness identified during our investigation said was untrue. We are confident that after we were put on notice, we did all we could to restore the work place to a harassment-free environment and that we will prevail in the litigation.”
The complaint was filed after a ruling by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that there was reasonable cause to believe the chain discriminated against the women based on their sex.
According to its website, McCormick & Schmick’s has 53 units in 20 states and the District of Columbia, is owned by Landry’s Inc., Tilman Fertitta’s Houston-based restaurant empire that recently purchased Joe’s Crab Shack. The company did not respond to The Boston Globe’s request for a comment.