TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Division on Civil Rights (DCR) announced today that two different New Jersey restaurants have agreed to make $20,000 settlement payments to resolve two separate employee complaints of workplace sexual harassment.
In one case Playa Bowls, an eatery located in Beach Haven, paid $20,000 to a 16-year-old girl who alleged she was the victim of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other sexually harassing behavior by her supervisor. The Division is withholding the girl’s name because she is a minor.
According to a Complaint filed by the girl’s mother (on behalf of her minor daughter), the teenager claimed that her supervisor inappropriately touched her back and arms on multiple occasions and also asked one of her co-workers if the complainant would have sex with him.
In the other case Voorhees Diner Group, which operates the Voorhees Diner in Voorhees Township, has agreed to pay $20,000 to a former server at the diner who alleged workplace harassment related to his sexual orientation. Brian Peeke, who is gay, alleged that he confronted name-calling and other examples of a hostile environment due to his sexual orientation. Peeke also claimed constructive discharge, as the harassment was so severe he had no choice but to resign his job as a server.
“In any workplace setting, people have a right to do the jobs they were hired to do without being subjected to verbal abuse, solicitations for sex, inappropriate touching, and other harassing conduct,” said Attorney General Grewal. “These cases should serve as a reminder to employers throughout the State that we take this issue seriously, and will hold accountable any employer who engages in, or tolerates, such harassment.”
“Studies have shown that sexual harassment is pervasive in the restaurant industry,” said DCR Director Rachel Wainer Apter. “These settlements should encourage all restaurant owners to make clear to all employees and managers that sexual harassment will not be tolerated, to develop anti-sexual-harassment policies and procedures for employees to follow if they need to file complaints, and to provide training to managers and staff.”
In the Playa Bowls case, the 16-year-old girl was hired as a server in August 2018.
In her complaint, the girl said she was not only the target of pervasive sexual harassment, but that she also witnessed such harassment aimed at others.
According to the complaint, her supervisor consistently made inappropriate sexual comments about the body parts of female employees. The girl also alleged that she witnessed her supervisor pushing another female co-worker’s head down toward his genitals. Playa Bowls denied the allegations in full.
In the Voorhees Diner case, complainant Peeke was hired as a server in November 2016.
In his complaint, Peeke alleged that multiple co-workers at the diner persistently insulted him and subjected him to verbal abuse related to his sexual orientation.
Peeke’s complaint alleged that despite having reported the harassment to the diner’s managers and owner, no action was taken and the harassment continued. The Voorhees Diner Group denied the allegations.
In addition to the monetary settlements, both Playa Bowls and Voorhees Diner Group agreed to train their employees on sexual harassment prevention.
DCR Investigator Kevin McNierney from the Division’s Cherry Hill office investigated the Voorhees Diner Group matter. Investigator Mark McNierney out of the Division’s Atlantic City office handled the Playa Bowls case.