Female workers sue upscale seafood restaurant over lewd behavior

Philip Marcelo
The Associated Press

BOSTON – Female kitchen workers at a McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant in Boston were subjected to groping and lewd comments from male supervisors and co-workers, five women said in a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, which represents the women, says the complaint details a “humiliating” and “toxic” work environment at the upscale seafood and steak chain’s location near Faneuil Hall.

The suit also highlights the abuse and harassment women in low-wage hospitality positions routinely face, even as sexual misconduct allegations have led to prominent resignations and firings in politics, media and film industries, said Sophia Hall, one of the women’s attorneys.

“In the flood of recent stories of sexual misconduct in white-collar industries, it is easy to overlook the most vulnerable women,” she said. “Our clients worked in precarious, low-wage positions. All they wanted was to support themselves and their families.”

Representatives for the Landry’s Inc., the Houston-based restaurant, casino and hotel operator that owns McCormick & Schmick’s, didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The lawsuit filed in Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston seeks unspecified damages.

The case: The women, most of whom have since left the restaurant chain, say they reported the lewd behavior to supervisors but were routinely ignored. They eventually brought their complaints to the company’s human resources department, which took some disciplinary actions against male employees but denied the conduct amounted to sexual harassment, according to the lawsuit.

The women then took their case to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which in 2015 ruled there was “reasonable cause” to believe the company discriminated against the women on the basis of their sex, the lawsuit states.

In the lawsuit, Marta Romero, a Chelsea resident who worked as a dishwasher at the restaurant from 2011 to 2015, alleges she was subjected to frequent groping and harassment from a sous chef.

Fabiana Santos, a Revere resident who worked as a prep cook at the restaurant from 2002 to 2015, says she dealt with lewd comments and unwanted touching from a male dishwasher.

And Gladys Fuentes, an East Boston resident who worked as a prep cook at the restaurant from 2015 to earlier this year, says she was groped and harassed by the executive chef.

The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they speak publicly, which the three women have done.