Five women employed in the kitchen at McCormick & Schmick’s in Downtown Boston (1 Faneuil Hall Market Pl.) filed a lawsuit Tuesday claiming that male supervisors and co-workers groped them and made lewd commends towards them, according to the Associated Press.
This comes on the heels of famed television chef Mario Batali stepping away from his business ventures amid sexual misconduct claims, one of a growing number of stories of similar behavior by others, not just in the restaurant world, but across several industries throughout the country.
Of the five women involved in the suit, one remains employed by McCormick & Schmick’s, and all served in low-wage positions as dishwashers, prep cooks, and janitors. The group held a press conference Tuesday to announce the suit, according to the Boston Globe, addressing prior complaints made to management and an investigation from a general manager in 2015.
Claims made against executive chef Aaron Hopp, sous chef Roman Buruca, and dishwasher Jesus Vasquez reference incidents from 2014 and 2015, including lewd comments, groping, and pinning a woman against a table. The women are represented by Sophia Hall, an attorney for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, which filed the suit alongside the Fair Work PC law firm. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had reportedly ruled in 2015 there was cause to believe the company had exhibited gender discrimination against the women.
A statement from McCormick & Schmick’s provided to Boston Magazine read, in part:
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. This case is no exception. Like most companies, we are not immune from bad characters. Well over two years ago when this matter was first reported in 2015, after a thorough investigation, an offending employee was immediately terminated, among other disciplinary actions.
The statement also said:
The plaintiffs’ 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.
Based in Portland, Oregon, McCormick & Schmick’s, which is part of Landry’s, Inc., is an upscale seafood chain with locations around the United States. The Downtown Boston location is the only one in Massachusetts; elsewhere in New England, there’s one in Providence.