When a seafood restaurant did nothing to address a waitress’ complaints about a chef who assaulted and harassed her, she called the police – and was fired hours later later in Florida, according to a federal lawsuit.
Prior to her dismissal, management repeatedly told the waitress to ignore the kitchen manager, whose ‘verbal abuse turned physical’ and that ‘nothing would be done to change the situation’ at AJ’s Oyster Shanty in Fort Walton Beach, a lawsuit filed in August 30 states.
The complaint says that instead of firing the kitchen manager who physically assaulted and sexually harassed the waitress, the oyster bar restaurant “sided” with him and unlawfully retaliated against her.
Now, the 41-year-old is suing AJ’s Oyster Shanty, LLC for employment discrimination after filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The federal agency granted him the right to sue.
McClatchy News contacted the restaurant for comment on September 6 and was awaiting a response.
The woman worked as a server at AJ’s Oyster Shanty’s Fort Walton Beach from February 8, 2021 to April 30, 2021, and was initially assigned to the night shift, according to the complaint. The kitchen manager also worked on this shift.
During that shift, the kitchen manager is accused of treating female staff “horribly” and repeatedly calling them derogatory names, the complaint states. As for the woman, he would often “invade (her) personal space” and subject her to sexually degrading “curses”.
When the waitress reported her treatment to management, she was transferred to the day shift, which resulted in a reduction in her pay, according to the lawsuit.
The kitchen manager started coming to work in the afternoon and the complaint says his treatment of the waitress got “worsened”.
“On one occasion, (the waitress) was working with him and he threw a sharp steak knife at her chest,” the complaint states.
When the woman reported this incident to management, she was “told that the camera angle and location of the incident were not available, and unfortunately nothing was filmed”, before the the kitchen manager’s behavior becomes “more violent”, according to the complaint.
On another occasion, the woman’s complaint states that her co-worker pushed her into the kitchen soup well.
Another manager told him this incident was not being filmed, so “it didn’t happen,” the complaint states.
As a result, the woman called the police to file a report on the assault, and AJ’s Oyster Shanty fired her four hours later, according to the lawsuit.
When police asked the restaurant to provide surveillance video of the assault, authorities were met with a denial unless they served a warrant or subpoena, the complaint says.
“The restaurant’s failure to act on or stop the physical assaults and continued sexual harassment and sexually derogatory and demeaning insults by (the waitress) caused her to experience anxiety and stress and (a led) to his dismissal,” the complaint reads. .
The complaint argues that there was no “legitimate” reason for the waitress to be fired.
The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of Florida, seeks to have the woman reinstated as a waitress and awarded wages for past wages she allegedly earned as well as lost benefits.
He also seeks compensatory damages, damages and attorneys’ fees, and a jury trial.
AJ’s Oyster Shanty has three other Florida locations at Okaloosa Island, Destin and Grayton Beach.
Fort Walton Beach is about 65 miles west of Panama City.