La Marina in Inwood is an upper Manhattan “hot spot” as popular for its beautiful views as it is for its food. For one former employee, however, it was where she claims to have experienced humiliation and sexual harassment while under the supervision of one of the managers. Connie Rodriguez alleges in a lawsuit that in addition to forcing her to tolerate harassment, the restaurant did not pay wages or provide wage notices as the law requires.
Rodriguez worked as a bartender at La Marina during the summer of 2016 and at the beginning of the summer of 2017 when security abruptly escorted her off the property. In her lawsuit, Rodriguez asserts individual claims and those on behalf of a class. The complaint contains allegations that the defendants, which include the owners of La Marina, Manhattan River Group, L.L.C., Jerald Tennenbaum and Josh Rosen, and Andrew Walters, the Director of Nightlife, discriminated against her and violated numerous wage laws.
Rodriguez claims that during her time working as a bartender, the restaurant did not pay her any wages at all. Instead, her only compensation came from customers’ tips. When an employee is a “regularly tipped” worker, like a bartender or waiter, it does not relieve the employer from all obligations. The employer is still required to pay the minimum wage that applies to tipped workers. The law sets the amount.
For example, for someone who works for a business with 11 or more employees in New York City, the minimum wage is $11.00 per hour. The minimum wage for a tipped employee in the food service industry is $7.50 per hour. An employer may use a “tip credit” of $3.50. The employer must pay that employee at least $7.50 per hour in cash wages. For a business to take advantage of the tip credit, it must provide specific notices to the employees.
In the complaint, Rodriguez alleges on behalf of herself and unnamed plaintiffs in the class, that La Marina violated wage and hour laws in some of the following ways:
Rodriguez’s complaint also contains a claim that does not apply to the class of unnamed plaintiffs. She claims that Walters, her supervisor, subjected her to frequent acts of sexual harassment which is a form of gender discrimination that resulted in her termination. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, unwanted touching, jokes, innuendo, propositions, and other verbal or physical acts. It becomes unlawful when it creates a hostile or uncomfortable work environment and/or results in an adverse employment decision.
According to the details of the lawsuit, she alleges Walters violated New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) when he did the following:
Rodriguez alleges that after La Marina had terminated her employment, for reasons she believes stem from the sexual harassment, she met with the restaurant manager and informed him of the behavior she had been forced to endure while working under Walters. The manager did not attempt to address any of the issues. Since the case was filed, Eater New York has reported that La Marina’s attorney called the allegations “baseless” and claimed the restaurant fired Rodriguez because of “her failures as an employee.”
The lawsuit alleging sexual harassment and unpaid wages is in the earliest stages. Time will tell if the court certifies it as a class action or the case moves forward as an individual claim by Rodriguez. La Marina is just one of numerous restaurants that have recently come under fire for the way it allegedly treats employees. Failure to pay proper wages and overtime along with gender discrimination and sexual harassment are legal violations that appear to disproportionately affect restaurant employees.
If you work in a restaurant, you have rights. Leeds Brown Law, P.C., attorneys representing restaurant employees and food service workers in New York City, have the experience and skill to help you recover unpaid wages and pursue other claims against your employer. Call us at 1-800-585-4658 for a free case evaluation. We may be able to help you and your coworkers recover wages that your employer legally owes you along with other remedies that may be available to you. Don’t wait. Call Leeds Brown today.