CLEVELAND, Ohio — A lawsuit accuses an upscale steakhouse chain restaurant of fostering a culture of sexual harassment at its Lyndhurst location and then firing a woman who went to police and accused a coworker of sexual assault.
The woman was fired from her position as sales and marketing manager at Capital Grille in the Legacy Village mall in November.
She filed the lawsuit late last month against the restaurant’s corporate owner, GMRI Inc., and Marc Hall, the employee she accused of sexual harassment on a number of occasions.
Hall has since been charged with disorderly conduct.
GMRI is a subsidiary of Darden Restaurants, the conglomerate behind restaurant chains Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Longhorn Steakhouse and Bahama Breeze and several others.
The suit also names Alexis Lundeen, the chain’s regional manager, and Nicholas Soike, the location’s managing partner as defendants.
The woman accuses GMRI, Lundeen and Soike of creating a hostile work environment, failing to maintain a safe work environment and wrongful termination and retaliation.
She also accuses Hall of assault and battery.
Attorney Eric Henry said his client hopes her lawsuit will promote change in the restaurant industry, “where mistreatment of women is still tolerated too often.
“It’s important that the hospitality industry be forced to abide by the same rules as any other work place,” Henry said. “She shouldn’t have to go to work and be afraid of the way she is going to be treated.
Lawyers for the defendants have yet to file a response to the lawsuit in court.
“We have zero tolerance for harassment of any kind,” Rich Jeffers, a spokesman for Darden Restaurants, said in an email.
“We immediately investigated [the woman’s] complaints and promptly terminated the individual involved.”
Efforts to reach Hall and Soike Tuesday were unsuccessful.
No attorney information was listed in court records.
The lawsuit says the woman was recruited to join the restaurant when it opened in 2016 and was never disciplined in his two years.
In that same time, a chef was fired after he grabbed another employee’s genitals in front of staff members, and she wrote up a line cook for kissing a coworker against her wishes, the lawsuit said.
One employee in particular, Hall, made numerous suggestive comments about the woman’s looks and clothing in front of other staff, according to the suit.
Hall told her in November 2017 that her dress would look better on his floor, and in July 2018 grabbed the front zipper on her zip-up shirt and said to her, “I wonder what would happen if I unzipped this,” the lawsuit says.
Hall also told the woman in November that he couldn’t wait until one of them no longer worked for the restaurant, “so I can blacken you,” the lawsuit said.
The woman reported each of Hall’s inappropriate comments to Soike, and Soike took no action, the lawsuit says.
14, the woman says she smelled alcohol on Hall’s breath and suspected he came to work drunk, and she reported him to Soike, the lawsuit says. Soike took no action and let Hall remain on shift, according to the lawsuit.
Later that day, the woman was in the restaurant’s office making a phone call when Hall came in and shut the door, the suit claims. She told him to leave, but he walked up behind her, wrapped his arms around her chest in a bear-hug and then moved his hands down to her thighs, the lawsuit claims.
She screamed and ordered Hall out of the office, then reported the incident to Soike, the lawsuit says. Soike took no action and let Hall finish the shift.
The next day, the woman contacted Lyndhurst police to report Hall on a gross sexual imposition charge. A detective showed up at the restaurant in the following days and interviewed the woman, the lawsuit claims.
On Nov. 19, four days after the woman went to police, Lundeen told her that she was under investigation for using profanity at work, the lawsuit says.
The woman denied the accusation and the lawsuit says that no other employees had ever been reprimanded for using profanity at work.
A week later, on Nov.
26, Lundeen invited the woman to a Starbucks to talk about her job, and fired her, the lawsuit says.
Hall was charged with disorderly conduct, a fourth-degree misdemeanor, in Lyndhurst Municipal Court on March 5, according to records.
He has pleaded not guilty in the pending case.
The woman struggled to find work after she was fired and has since taken employment for less money, the lawsuit says.
To comment on this story, please visit Tuesday’s crime and courts comments page.