Home NewsU.S. News Sweet & Vicious Bar Owner Will Pay $500,000 for Harassing Workers

Sweet & Vicious Bar Owner Will Pay $500,000 for Harassing Workers

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Sweet & Vicious Bar Owner Will Pay $500,000 for Harassing Workers

Sweet & Vicious, a downtown Manhattan bar and restaurant popular for its “jargaritas” (frozen margaritas in giant mason jars), has been a den of sexual, racial, and gender-based harassment , employees endured racial slurs, and management took some advice. New York State Attorney General Letitia James conducted a 16-month investigation that revealed she was not being paid for her work.

As part of a settlement brokered by the attorney general’s office, owner Hakan Karamakhmutoglu will pay $500,000 to be split among at least 16 people who violated state and municipal human rights laws and Labor law employees.

“For too long, workers in the hospitality industry have been forced to endure a pervasive culture of sexual harassment and discrimination that goes unreported,” she said in a statement. “Regardless of the industry, every New Yorker should be able to Go to work without fear of abuse and degradation.”

In a statement, Mr Karamahmutoglu said many of the allegations were untrue or grossly misleading and did not reflect his character or views. He said he signed the agreement last Thursday to avoid the cost of continuing the investigation, avoid future lawsuits and allow everyone to move forward.

“I have given back to the community and city I love and employ hundreds of people from all backgrounds,” his statement said. “We will continue to welcome everyone into a positive and inclusive environment. Those who know me know this to be true, and I ask those who don’t know me not to rush judgment.”

The investigation began in early 2021 after several women working in the bar banded together to speak to a lawyer who took them to the attorney general’s office. The investigation included dozens of interviews with former and current employees.

One of them, Katy Guest, 33, who was a former bartender at Sweet & Vicious, said she was surprised that the harassment she and others regularly experience is important to the attorney general.

“We basically didn’t know that people with that kind of power were paying attention to these things that happen every day in the hospitality industry,” she said in an interview. “It’s been going on behind closed doors for so long that we’re used to it.”

Ms James said the pub on Spring Street in NoLIta was a hotbed of harassment by managers and patrons. According to her findings, bosses routinely insult female employees, calling them “bitch” and “cow,” and scrutinize their appearance, commenting on their bodies and clothing. Ms James said he also called workers “terrorists”, “liars” and “garbage”.

In an audio message left on the 2020 employee WhatsApp account and shared with The New York Times, Mr Karamamutoglu said the women who work for him need to be pretty, slim and active. He wants bartenders “to be as tall, blond, beautiful and sexy as the women who work in Ibiza bars”.

In 2019, Kim Anderson worked for six months in bars and restaurants that were often packed to help pay off graduate school tuition. She suspects she’s not getting the best shift because she’s not presenting herself the way management wants. For example, she says, she’s often told to wear more makeup.

Bar managers are almost always male. According to the settlement documents, some regularly engaged in unwelcome sexual advances, including one manager repeatedly rubbing his genitals against an employee, and another announcing the color of the worker’s underwear and declaring in vulgar language that he wanted to have sex with her.

The attorney general said management tolerated customers’ threats to stab, rape and beat employees. Bosses and managers often use racial and homophobic slurs when talking about workers, she said.

Poor working conditions cited in the survey included bartenders working eight-hour consecutive shifts with no overtime of more than 40 hours, a stricter code of conduct for female bartenders than men and the fact that tips left on credit cards never made it to workers.

The settlement requires Sweet & Vicious to revise its anti-discrimination and harassment training materials and to display a notice regarding anti-discrimination and harassment rights and responsibilities. Owners must regularly submit reports to the Attorney General’s Office demonstrating that the company complied with the terms of the settlement.

The survey is the latest in a series of national investigations into sexual abuse and harassment in the hospitality industry. The first was in January 2020, when Ken Friedman, the main owner of Manhattan’s Spotted Pig restaurant, agreed to pay $240,000 and a portion of his profits to 11 former employees who accused him of sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation.

Next up is chef Mario Batali and his former partner Joe Bastianic. In July 2021, Ms. James said the pair had presided over a culture of sexual harassment and retaliation to the point of violating state and city human rights laws.

The two and the company of Pasta Resources (formerly Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group) agreed to tell at least 20 people that their Manhattan restaurant Babbo, Lupa or Del Posto, which will permanently close in 2021, has been the crown jewel of the men’s collection. .

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