John Besh Accused of Sexual Harassment

By Leeds Brown Law | October 24, 2017

Workplace Sexual Harassment In The News Again

It seems as if every day there are new allegations of sexual harassment against well-known figures.

In just a few short months:

  • movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was forced out of his job and into rehab as dozens of women accused him of sexual harassment and assault
  • dozens of women accused writer and director James Toback of sexual harassment
  • Robert Scoble resigned from Transformation group after several women came forward with accusations of sexual harassment
  • The leaders of several tech companies and media channels have stepped down or been removed because of allegations of sexual harassment
  • acclaimed chef Todd English was accused of sexually harassing one of his waitresses
  • former President George H. W. Bush allegedly groped a model during a photo shoot
  • too many people to count in the entertainment industry and elsewhere, men and women, have shared stories of threats, sexual harassment, and assault directly related to their employment.

The above allegations have garnered tremendous publicity partly because they involve celebrities, CEOs and other public figures in addition to allegations of widespread coverups. Sexual harassment is not always “newsworthy,” such as when it happens to ordinary hard-working individuals. However, sexual harassment exists in all industries and can happen to anyone. One thing is true no matter who the victim is: the fear of repercussions makes it hard to discuss.

At Leeds Brown Law, P.C. we know it can be difficult to stand up to sexual harassment for fear of losing your income or derailing your path toward success. Sometimes it takes the strength of others to help you decide to speak up and fight against sexual harassment. If you are the victim of sexual harassment at your workplace, attorneys at Leeds Brown can provide that strength when you are trying to determine how to proceed.

We know that no matter where you work, your employer is obligated to provide you with a safe environment free from harassment and discrimination. Our employment discrimination attorneys at Leeds Brown are strong advocates against sexual harassment and know how to receive favorable outcomes should you choose to pursue a claim. If the news is any indication, you are certainly not alone in the fight for your rights.

Celebrity Chef Among the Latest Accused of Sexual Harassment

As of this writing, one of the more recent sexual harassment claims involves yet another celebrity. On October 23, 2017, New Orleans superstar chef John Besh removed himself from his 12-year-old company in the wake of allegations by dozens of current and former employees that his restaurants are rampant with sexual harassment. The New York Times reported that Besh’s action to leave was the result of an investigation published The Times-Picayune and Shannon White, the current chief executive of the Besh Restaurant Group (BRG), confirmed Besh’s decision to “step down from all aspects of operations and to provide his full focus on his family.” BRG owns 12 restaurants in New Orleans in addition to a bar and event space. The company employs approximately 1200 people.

The Investigation Uncovered Sexual Harassment

During an eight-month long investigation conducted by the Times-Picayune, more than two dozen current and former workers for corporate BRG or its restaurants told reporters that they were victims of sexual harassment. The women described a culture of sexual harassment where the women were subjected to unwanted touching by male co-workers and supervisors, and lewd and suggestive comments about their appearances. Several described situations where superiors tried to leverage jobs in exchange for sex. The women further explained that anyone who complained about the inappropriate behavior was “berated, ignored, or ostracized.” It was so bad at BRG according to some women that they received warnings from other employees, sometimes “on day one on the job” to beware of “handsy male supervisors.”

None of the women at the time of the investigation filed internal complaints with BRG because there was no human resources department or representative, or any other formal channel through which to process grievances. A spokesman for the company stated that the first-ever director of human resources, Dawn Peterson Hazen, began work on October 11, 2017.

Since the Times-Picayune investigation, two of the women interviewed filed formal sexual harassment charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The complaints alleged that several male co-workers, supervisors, and bosses engaged in a pattern of vulgar behavior including unwanted touching, creating an atmosphere of aggression and sexual innuendo. There are allegations against Besh that specifically accuse him of making repeated sexual overtures, pressuring an employee to engage in sex acts and retaliating against an employee for her attempts to end what Besh called a “consensual relationship.”

Sexual Harassment and Retaliation are Unlawful Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) prohibits employment discrimination based on sex. Sexual harassment is a type of sex discrimination. Sexual harassment is unlawful when it is pervasive or severe enough to create a hostile work environment for the victim. It can also be unlawful when a condition of employment gets attached to the performance of a sex act.

Getting Help From Sex Discrimination Attorneys Representing Employees in New York

A 2016 report issued by Restaurant Opportunities Center United, a group that advocates for restaurant employees, concluded that almost 40% of sexual harassment complaints filed with the EEOC originate from an employee in the restaurant industry. Do you need any more evidence that you are not alone in your experience?

If you are the victim of sexual harassment whether you work in a restaurant, club, bar or any other industry, getting help from the right attorney can make all the difference in your claim. At Leeds Brown, our employment discrimination attorneys have spent decades helping workers in New York collect damages from employers who sexually harass them. Call our office for a free evaluation of your sexual harassment claim. You can reach us at 1-800-585-4658.



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