Restaurant is met with a lawsuit after an unnamed waitress claims she was harassed and assaulted by co-workers.
One-time waitress for North-Carolina based Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, who isn’t identified in court papers, is suing the company for allegedly being sexually assaulted and harassed for months. The allegations largely stem from a private sex tape of hers that had made its way around the restaurant.
“The alleged victim was working for a Raleigh location of Firebirds Wood Fired Grill in December of 2018 when a sexually explicit video of her – that was meant for her boyfriend – was inadvertently posted in the group chat of a Facebook group that consisted of the restaurant wait staff,” the lawsuit contends. “Instead of taking steps to remove the video and discourage the sharing of the video, management and staff of Firebirds forwarded and shared the video with Restaurant’s kitchen staff.”
The plaintiff claimed her co-workers began to harass and even grope her until February 2019, when she ultimately decided to report the treatment to the corporate office. The woman said she never received a response the first time she complained. So, she followed up a second time and a an employee responded, taking down her contact information. Approximately “one hour later,” according to court papers, she received text messages that read, in part: “You can run but you can’t hide s— … You won’t be taking anyone down but yourself.”
Firebirds International, LLC, the restaurant’s parent company, is accused of “brushing off not only the rampant sexual harassment but even sexual assault at the North Hills Avenue location since at least August 2018, when the woman was hired to work as a server. From the start, the woman, a Wake County resident whose age was not provided, was subjected to unwanted sexual comments and physical sexual harassment,” including “non-consensual touching,” court papers show. Once the video circulated, these instances increased, and at one point, “cartoon female breasts were drawn next to [her] name on the schedule.”
The alleged victim felt “compelled to resign and was constructively discharged” in February 2020, the October lawsuit indicates. he is now seeking a jury trial and damages of at least $100,000 in lost income and to make up for her emotional distress.
In a previous case settled last year, Firebirds agreed to pay $2.5M to resolve wage theft claims of just over 7,000 servers nationwide employed at its various locations between May 12, 2014 and Jan. 3, 2019. The lawsuit, filed by lead plaintiff Josh Nolen filed in 2017 on behalf of all of the restaurants servers and contends it failed to pay minimum wage by “unlawfully claiming a tip credit on all of its servers’ wages despite not paying them their actual tips or giving them adequate required notice.” Nolen said, “Failure to give tipped employees proper notice of the tip credit and paying them less than the minimum wage is a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.”
Nolen was joined by another named plaintiff, Maggie Brooks, and each received $15,000 service awards. Attorneys for the class were able to ask for up to one-third of the payout.