In March 2016, serious allegations of sexual harassment by ex-workers at a San Francisco restaurant were filed against Michael Chiarello, its chef and owner. According to the complaints, Chiarello and his restaurant’s executive chef took numerous sexual actions that contributed to a hostile work environment. Two workers allegedly felt so uncomfortable that they were forced to leave.

The sexual harassment motions accompanied a class-action suit accusing the managers of improper pay and employment misconduct. In one example of creating a negative workplace culture, Chiarello told his higher-level staff not to hire people if they weren’t physically attractive. He also made sexual comments about multiple customers in addition to touching, ogling and groping various women over the course of approximately a year.

The chef was also accused of behaving sexually towards a homosexual male waiter by touching him appropriately and implying that the employee had been performing sex acts in the toilet. In addition to aiming at Chiarello, the lawsuit alleged that the executive chef made comments about performing sex acts on a customer, which apparently prompted the resignation of a female manager. The legal action also targeted Gruppo Chiarello, the chef’s restaurant company.

Many forms of sexual harassment are overt, but in some cases, it is deeply ingrained in the culture of a workplace. Companies whose leaders act inappropriately may encourage other decision makers to do the same, which can make it difficult for employees to pursue internal remedies. In some cases, workplace environments become sufficiently hostile that people validly fear retaliation for speaking out. Victims of this type of behavior may want to meet with an employment law attorney to determine how best to proceed.

Source: Eater, “Celebrity Chef Michael Chiarello Hit With Sexual Harassment Lawsuit [Update]”, Ellen Fort, March 15, 2016