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NYC Bar Sweet & Vicious Owner Pays $500K To Staff In Sexual Harassment Case

Emanuel Shirazi

The owner of Sweet & Vicious, a Manhattan-based bar, has agreed to pay a $500,000 settlement after sexually harassing and demeaning female and minority employees. According to filings made by New York Attorney General Letita James, Hakan Karamahmutoglu allegedly used sexist slurs such as “b–hes” and “cows,” he stole their tips, and allowed male managers and customers to threaten, and physically harass female staff.

The investigation of the allegations went on for 16 months and has concluded in a settlement to be split between 16 current and former workers.

The probe uncovered a hostile work culture where management turned their backs on customers harassing and physical threatening female bartenders. Management allowed customers to threaten stabbing, rape, physical assault, and allowed them to throw glasses at the women.

Investigations also revealed male managers being allowed to sexually harass the women. One male manger kissed and rubbed his body against one of the women and in another incident a manager made a sexual remark about a worker’s underwear.

During Interviews, the women told of the owner making harassing comments, touching and grabbing the employees, saying “I’m the owner, I can do what I want.” Additionally, he would use derogatory language in reference to the women and minority employees, saying things like “gangster” in reference to the black security guards, and calling a Puerto Rican manager a “terrorist” and “Puerto Rican trash.” He also told a female bartender “I like your fat black ass” and used homophobic slurs.

To make matters worse, the women were also made to work overtime without pay, their tips were stolen, and were denied meal and rest breaks. When a drunk customer threw a glass at a bartender’s head, the managers turned their backs. Anytime the women would raise concerns about the unsafe work environment, they were ignored.

In a press conference the women expressed how Hakan and the rest of management at the bar created a racist, sexist, and homophobic environment. One of them stated they were glad to hold the bar accountable and hoped it would discourage other like-minded employers in the industry from subjecting employees to similar harassment.

Karamahmutoglu denied all allegations saying they are untrue and do not reflect his character, stating that he only signed the agreement to bring closure to the whole thing. Along with the settlement, the company agreed to strengthen anti-sexual harassment and discrimination policies and be periodically monitored by the AG’s office.

The hospitality industry is riddled with a culture of unreported sexual harassment and discrimination. State law protects workers’ right to work in an environment free of sexual harassment, and the food service industry is no exception and cannot go unchecked.

Learn More About Sexual Harassment Law / How to Report Sexual Harassment at Work?

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