The recent decision in Bogota v. The University Club by the New York Supreme Court has permitted the sex harassment claims of four waitresses at the prestigious University Club to move forward to trial. The waitresses, all of whom were part-time employees, were hired to work at banquets held at the Italian Renaissance-style club at Fifth Avenue and 54th Street.
One of the waitresses claimed that she approached the University Club’s food and beverage director to complain about improper behavior on the part of the Club’s banquet captain. Two other women claimed that the banquet captain asked them to go to a hotel with him and that one of them was assaulted when she refused. According to the waitresses, the captain conditioned his assignment of shifts to them based on their willingness to go out with him.
The Bogota decision ruled that the waitresses could pursue their claims of quid pro quo harassment and a hostile work environment under the New York City Human Rights Law. Notably, the decision pointed out that restaurants could be held accountable for the discriminatory practices of a captain “when they exercise managerial or supervisory responsibility.” Justice Feinman explained that the fact that the captain had the power to pick and choose which workers would be asked to work raised a question of fact as to whether the captain can be considered a supervisor under the law – – and thus, whether the University Club should be held liable for the captain’s sexual harassment of the waitresses.