Lawsuit: Wild West-themed bar is a hotbed of sexual degradation

Posted in Sexual Harassment on June 20, 2014

Although we often write about lawsuits involving a hostile work environment, the degree of hostility varies from incident to incident. Frankly, some sexual harassment lawsuits contain such sordid details that “hostile work environment” hardly seems like an adequate description.

There are businesses around the United States where sex and female degradation are the main attractions, and the women working there may not know that before they get hired. According to one recent lawsuit, a restaurant calling itself a bar and grill is actually “a hyper-sexualized work environment that increases the defendants’ profits by exploiting, degrading and humiliating its female employees.”

The defendant in the lawsuit is a New York City bar called “Johnny Utah’s.” The Wild-West-themed establishment is famous for having a mechanical bull, but that doesn’t seem to be the main attraction. Instead, the management apparently decided that the main attraction would be sexy waitresses and bartenders wearing skimpy outfits and forced to act provocatively toward customers and one another.

The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of female current and former employees, alleges that the women regularly had to endure gropes and sexual comments made by customers. Moreover, they could not wear wedding or engagement rings because they had to look “available.”

In order to complete the customer fantasy, the women were allegedly told to sit on male customers’ laps, ask the customers to buy them shots, drink shots with customers and dance on the bar in front of them.

These allegations are disturbing enough, but the women allege that there were even more degrading acts they were expected to perform. According to the lawsuit, female employees occasionally had to ride the mechanical. When doing so, bosses would “urge the female employees to take off their shirts when they ride the mechanical bull and kiss other female employees when they ride the bull together.”

The female employees were constantly threatened with being fired if they did not live up to expectations. They were also allegedly called “ugly” and “stupid” if male employees were not pleased with their look or their level of customer enticement.

This kind of expected behavior is more akin to human trafficking than to food service. It is degrading, humiliating and at least some of it is almost assuredly illegal.

If you have been the victim of workplace sexual harassment, it doesn’t have to get this bad before you can do something about it. Please share your concerns with an experienced employment law attorney.

Source: NY Daily News, “Ex-employees of Johnny Utah’s suing over ‘hyper-sexualized work environment’,” Dareh Gregorian, June 17, 2014