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Napa Valley chef lawsuit on sexual

Time:2016-11-22 12:00wine - Red wine life health Click:

Napa Valley chef Lawsuit sexual


Desiree Cox, a Santa Rosa-based plaintiff’s attorney for about 20 years, also sees the work environment improving. Young women are more likely to report perceived harassment. “They are more comfortable objecting to it,” Cox said, though they may not feel safe in doing so. There are still plenty of sexual-harassment cases reported.

“There are guys who have the proclivity to abuse women, put women down, keep them down, use them sexually, objectify them,” Cox said. “There’s a percentage of the population that is that way. It’s never going to change.”

What is changing is that women are becoming more empowered, Cox said. “Employers are realizing that if they don’t do something about it, they face substantial liability. Before, they would be very bold about it, and graphic. You do this for me or you’re out of here. Now, it’s more subtle. They’re sneakier.”

Sexual harassment happens in all kinds of businesses, though it may be more prevalent in restaurants, Cox said. “It’s everywhere,” she said. Restaurants “may be small operations, sometimes family-owned,” usually with few levels of management. “There’s a front-house and a back-house division that occurs. The back of the house is very close quarters. Chefs are in charge back there. They may feel like the rules that apply to the front of the house don’t apply to the back. There are dishwashers back there.”

There can be language barriers or big age differences. “Women can be hearing or seeing things they know they are offended by,” Cox said.


Women sometimes don’t report harassment because they are afraid they will be fired, badmouthed or lose references. “There is still a stigma with women who legitimately report,” she said. It may be tough to get another job in the same industry. “Women are always retaliated against,” she said.

In a restaurant, “cooks will mess with their food,” Cox said, referring to relationships with servers. “They will make food unattractive when the girl takes it out. That’s a form of retaliation.” Sometimes a dish goes out missing certain items, potentially affecting a customer’s satisfaction and then the amount of the tip. “She might get in trouble for it,” Cox said.

Restaurants often allow socializing between managers and employees. “Drinking and things go on after hours and blur the lines between employees and managers,” Cox said. She recommends that employers discourage socializing, especially on the business premises, and curb drinking by employees.

“There’s power at the front end of the house” in a restaurant, she said, with sections, seating, assigning customers. “I have seen women marginalized by how it is seated,” Cox said, “a four-top as opposed to a two-top. That should all be fair. Certainly don’t target somebody who has reported” harassment. “That would be retaliation.”

She has seen cases with graphic sexual harassment, including physical acts, “up the back of women’s skirts, grabbing,” Cox said. “Physical stuff is the worst.”

Sexual harassment can cut to the core of a woman’s psyche, Cox said. “They are doing a good job, as good as or better than the men. It goes to their value as a person, their work ethic, their feeling of accomplishment in life. In an environment where that’s not seen, it’s as bad as a physical assault.”


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