Another story of sexual harassment in a restaurant, another case of it being ignored and—wait, what? They closed the entire restaurant after the Massachusetts Attorney General came after them? And they're still going forward with a discrimination complaint? Holy crap.
Via MassLive.com, after reading numerous blog posts detailing a long-standing pattern of abuse and harassment, Massachusetts AG Maura Healey filed a discrimination complaint against the Route 9 Diner in Hadley. Days later, Route 9 decided to close pending legal counsel. Despite the closure, Healey is continuing to pursue the complaint. This isn't some kind of cruel hoax (the story was originally posted pre-April Fools); this is actually happening.
Marie Billiel, who worked at Route 9 from 2008-2013, was the first to write about the problem, and she didn't spare details:
I grew accustomed to being greeted by a chorus of "mmmmmmmmm" when I entered the kitchen, complete with licked lips and hungry stares. There were days that it was more bothersome than others. Some days the cooks would be angry and tell me, "no tienes tetas," (you do not have breasts,) when I asked for my tables' food. My days were so commonly punctuated by stares and sexual comments that I wrote it off as part of my job; it was just another bad tip or difficult customer. I spent shifts coaching a coworker on the many reasons she should leave her abusive boyfriend. I told her to stand up for herself and that there was no reason for her to endure the things she had. Then I walked over to the window to pick up my food, narrowly avoiding having my hand licked. There wasn't so much as a flicker of awareness of my hypocrisy.
And the owners made sure Billiel and the others who were mistreated knew they could easily be replaced:
"They used to tell us all the time that we were expendable, that they had a stack of resumes this thick," she said while holding her thumb and index finger approximately two inches apart.
Sexual harassment violations in the restaurant industry aren't merely nothing new; they're basically par for the course. Anyone who has worked in the industry has seen something that qualifies, and at a lot of crappier places (of which the Route 9 Diner allegedly is one), it can be considered the standard. What makes this case unique is I can't remember a pattern of harassment so egregious that it actually forced a restaurant to close. If anyone else has any examples that I'm missing, please let me know, but as far as I'm aware, this is unprecedented.
It's also pretty unequivocally great. As noted, sexual harassment is one of the restaurant industry's many pervasive ills, and seeing an AG willing to actually tackle it as a real problem is encouraging. Further, the fact that even after the restaurant's closure, Healey is still pursuing the matter shows that she gives a crap and maybe something will actually, blessedly be done about an instance of restaurant sexual mistreatment. You go, AG Healey.
Image via Laura Stone/Shutterstock.
Contact the author at WilyUbertrout@gmail.com.