CLIFTON, N.J. – A Clifton steakhouse accused of fostering a climate of sexual harassment and racism has been ordered to pay $80,000 to employees and ex-employees, authorities announced Thursday.
The settlement, reached to resolve the allegations, stipulates that Alexus Steakhouse & Tavern must pay $50,000 to a female employee who the state found to be a victim of sexual harassment and a total of $30,000 to six other employees who experienced alleged racism and discrimination at the Valley Road establishment, New Jersey Attorney General Christopher P. Porrino said.
The settlement resolves allegations that, Alexus’ owner told Division of Civil Rights investigators, flowed from the conduct of one individual, John Magliaro, who was hired to manage the restaurant. Magliaro has since been terminated, and the owner has cooperated with the state’s investigation.
One female employee told the Division that Magliaro once slapped a fellow female employee on the buttocks as she leaned over a table. In another instance, the manager allegedly pulled the elastic waistband of a female worker’s pants, exposing her buttocks.
Magliaro also allegedly told a female employee who asked why she’d been passed over to work as a bartender – in favor of another female employee -- that it was because the chosen female employee had “great” breasts. The manager went on to inquire about when there might be an opportunity for three-way sex with both women, according to the employee.
According to multiple complainants, Magliaro peppered the workers daily with ethnic insults such as “stupid Mexicans,” “illegals” and as “illiterate.” He also allegedly urged the steakhouse owner to “get a white kitchen because they’ll listen.”
The investigation found that the bulk of Alexus’ mostly Hispanic kitchen workers and servers claimed to have either experienced sexual harassment or race-based discrimination directly, or witnessed discriminatory conduct imposed on co-workers by Magliaro.
When interviewed by Division investigators, Magliaro denied all allegations of unlawful conduct. He said he made no sexually harassing comments and never used racist slurs. He also denied having engaged in any unwanted touching or other inappropriate behavior toward female employees.
“Much of the conduct alleged in this case is the kind of conduct that’s at the heart of the national discussion on workplace harassment – particularly sexual harassment -- taking place right now,” said Porrino. “Whether we’re talking about a Hollywood movie set or the kitchen of a local restaurant, subjecting employees to sexual innuendo, sexual propositions and inappropriate touching is wrong and cannot be allowed to stand.”
“Likewise,” Porrino said, “there is no room in the workplace for racist remarks and/or derogatory comments about people of a particular ethnicity or culture. It is unlawful, it is wrong, and we are committed to standing up for anyone who has been subjected to such conduct.”
In addition to paying the seven individual complainants, the steakhouse must implement policy and training reforms designed to prevent workplace discrimination. The restaurant also has been assessed a $30,000 suspended penalty by the Division. It must pay the full amount if it fails to comply with the settlement terms in any way, or is found to have committed a violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) within the next three years.
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