The Guardian published an article last Friday about a pair of high-profile lawsuits alleging that Los Serranos Golf Club repeatedly failed to protect four young women from a sexual harasser who worked as the club’s executive chef for more than two decades. The women are represented by Lauren Teukolsky and Zoe Tucker of UNITE HERE Local 11.
The women all began working at Los Serranos in 2021 as line cooks and event servers. They were all between the ages of 17 and 20 at the time. They allege that the Executive Chef, who had worked there for decades, made inappropriate romantic and sexual overtures towards them, frequently commented on their physical appearance, and engaged in inappropriate touching. They allege that the chef would loudly compare their bodies and other physical attributes in crude terms with other male kitchen workers outside of their presence. They allege that after they complained, the chef was only demoted, not fired, and they were required to continue working alongside him.
According to the Guardian’s article, sexual harassment is pervasive in the restaurant service and hospitality industries in the US. The article cites a 2021 survey by One Fair Wage that found over 70% of female restaurant employees have been sexually harassed at least once while working in the industry.
The lawsuits are especially significant because they target JC Resorts, a luxury resort operator in Southern California that employs Los Serranos’ workers and has spent millions to oppose legislation that would improve protections against sexual harassment for women in the workplace. Ms. Teukolsky previously filed a sex harassment lawsuit against the Terranea, another luxury resort operated by JC Resorts. Ms. Teukolsky’s client, Sandra Pezqueda, was named a TIME “Person of the Year” after she sued JC Resorts based on sexual harassment she suffered while employed at the Terranea.
Ms. Teukolsky, has fought to protect employees rights for over 20 years and has represented women in high-profile sexual harassment cases in the past. Most recently, Ms. Teukolsky represented a woman who was sexually harassed while working at Los Angeles’ Chateau Marmont. The lawsuit was covered by the Hollywood Reporter and was one of several lawsuits against the Chateau that prompted a celebrity boycott of the legendary hotel.
To read the Guardian’s article in its entirety, click here. If you believe you’ve been sexually harassed at the workplace and want to get in touch with Teukolsky Law, click here.
On December 7th, President Biden signed the Speak Out Act into law. The law makes nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) unenforceable if signed before a dispute involving sexual assault or sexual harassment arises. It comes less than a year after the passage of the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, a law that also improved workplace protections for victims of sexual harassment and assault.
The Speak Out Act represents a big victory for #MeToo movement and workers’ advocates. NDAs are frequently used to silence workers and keep accusations of sexual misconduct out of the public eye. They also prevent many workers from explaining job departures and employment gaps caused by sexual misconduct to prospective employers. According to a paper authored by Professors at Syracuse University and the University of Maryland, approximately 26 % of U.S. employees are covered by NDAs.
It is important to remember that the bill does not apply to other kinds of workplace disputes such as age or race discrimination. It also does not apply to NDAs signed after a dispute arises.
If you have been the target of sexual misconduct in the workplace, click here to get in touch with Teukolsky Law.
Hollywood Reporter Article on Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s CONTROVERSIAL Oscar Party AT CHATEAU MARMONT Highlights TWO Teukolsky Law Cases
The Hollywood Reporter published an article on March 22, 2022 discussing the criticism that Beyoncé and Jay-Z have drawn for deciding to hold their annual Oscars after-party at the Chateau Marmont, despite mounting allegations that the Chateau has engaged in racist practices to the detriment of its Black employees and customers. The party, known as the “Gold Party,” has long been one of the most coveted invites of Oscars night and was routinely thrown at the Chateau Marmont prior to the pandemic.
This year, Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s plans to host their first Gold Party since the pandemic at the Chateau has drawn criticism because of an ongoing boycott of Chateau Marmont, led by the local hotel workers’ Union, UNITE HERE Local 11. The boycott, which has support from celebrities such as Spike Lee and Issa Rae, was prompted in part by allegations in two lawsuits filed by Teukolsky Law in 2021.
The first lawsuit was filed on behalf of former Chateau events server Thomasina Gross (pictured above), a Black woman, and charges the Chateau with race discrimination, sex harassment, and retaliation. The second lawsuit was filed on behalf of former Chateau night auditor April Blackwell, also a Black woman, and involves allegations about repeated racist behavior from guests that went unchecked by her superiors at the Chateau. Both lawsuits were previously covered in reports by The Hollywood Reporter and the Los Angeles Times.
If you believe you have been experienced race discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation, or other unlawful workplace practices, contact Teukolsky Law today for a free consultation.
On October 8, Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 331 into law. The bill, sponsored by State Senator Connie Leyva, makes it illegal for companies to prohibit employees from speaking about discrimination and harassment.
Previously, laws such as the Stand Together Against Non-Disclosures Act banned non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in sexual harassment, but did not prohibit NDAs for other types of discrimination, such as race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Now, California workers will have legal protections for speaking out about all manner of unlawful conduct in the workplace.
This legislation has been strongly supported by Ifeoma Ozoma, a Pinterest whistleblower who spoke out about racial discrimination at the company. NDAs are commonly used, particularly in the tech industry, to keep employees quiet about workplace harassment and discrimination for fear of facing legal action and fines. People began discussing them more frequently after it was reported during the #MeToo movement that Harvey Weinstein and other abusers used NDAs to silence their victims.
SB 331 was sponsored by the California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA), the organization Earthseed, and Equal Rights Advocates. It will take effect on January 1, 2022.
If you believe you have been a victim of discrimination or harassment in the workplace, contact Teukolsky Law today for a free consultation.
Teukolsky Law Asks Chateau Marmont To Reconsider Request To Move Lawsuit from Open Court To Secret Arbitration Proceedings
Last week, Teukolsky Law asked Chateau Marmont's attorney to reconsider the Chateau's request that TL client, Thomasina Gross, dismiss her race discrimination and sex harassment lawsuit against the famed Hollywood institution and refile her claims in private arbitration proceedings. Here is the letter:
Dear Mr. Stone:
We are in receipt of your March 10 letter in which you ask our client, Thomasina Gross, to dismiss the lawsuit she filed in Los Angeles Superior Court against your client, the Chateau Marmont, and instead file her race discrimination and sexual harassment claims with JAMS, a private arbitration company whose proceedings are not open to the public. We recognize that the arbitration agreement Ms. Gross signed when she started working for the Chateau appears to be enforceable. However, we would ask that you reconsider your request for the following reasons.
First, the Chateau’s treatment of its employees is a matter of substantial interest to the public and should accordingly be evaluated in a public forum, so that the public can make informed decisions about whether or not to give their business to the Chateau. Whereas arbitrations are essentially a “secret system controlled by the wrongdoers,” court cases ensure that the public has access to information that affects them. If Ms. Gross’s claims proceed in arbitration, none of the documents filed in the case will be a public record, and the testimony provided by witnesses will not be accessible to the public.
Second, a plaintiff’s ability to conduct discovery to learn information about the defendant’s case is far more constrained in arbitration than in court. For example, the JAMS Employment Arbitration Minimum Standards provide for only one deposition per party, while California state courts allow for the parties to take the depositions of all witnesses with relevant information. Given the nuances involved in evaluating a race discrimination and sexual harassment claim, we believe broader discovery is necessary.
Third, while forced arbitration is unfair to all workers (Americans are more likely to be struck by lightning than to win their cases in arbitration), it disproportionately affects female workers and Black workers, who are the most likely groups to be bound by forced arbitration. Meanwhile, only 28.84% of JAMS arbitrators are women, and only around 4% are African-American. We believe that our client, an African-American woman alleging race discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace, deserves to have her case heard by a jury of her peers that is reflective of the community of Los Angeles.
For these reasons, we would respectfully request that you permit Ms. Gross to proceed with her claims in court, and not require her to proceed in arbitration. We appreciate your consideration of our request.
At a press conference on January 28, 2021, Lauren Teukolsky announced the filing of a new lawsuit against Chateau Marmont on behalf of former employee Thomasina "Thommi" Gross. Chateau Marmont is a legendary Hollywood hotel known as a playground for its wealthy clientele. Ms. Gross, who is African-American, worked as an events server there from 2017 to 2020, until she was laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The complaint, which was filed on January 27 in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges that Ms. Gross was repeatedly passed over for promotions in favor of white employees. Ms. Gross, who had over a decade of experience in high-end hotel hospitality, received far less compensation and fewer hours than her white counterparts. This was consistent, says the complaint, with the Chateau’s discriminatory preference for placing white or light-skinned people of color in guest-facing roles.
The suit also alleges that due to the Chateau’s “anything goes” party environment, guests felt free to touch and grope Ms. Gross as she served food during events. When Ms. Gross reported guest misconduct to management, the complaint alleges, they took no steps to protect her, and even retaliated by not giving her any more restaurant shifts.
Ms. Teukolsky said: “Ms. Gross has demonstrated tremendous courage by stepping forward to challenge the discriminatory practices of one of the most iconic Hollywood institutions. We hope that her bravery will lead the Chateau to take steps to protect its employees from guest harassment and to ensure that its hiring practices going forward comply with California’s powerful anti-discrimination laws.”
In an article published on January 28 in the Hollywood Reporter, Ms. Gross commented: “I don’t like having to leave my dignity at the door. It’s exhausting. We’re forced into a fight-or-flight mode. We’re conditioned to believe we have to expect this. I’m speaking out on behalf of myself and others who believe they’ll face retaliation. Changing the culture is my focus. No one should have to deal with this on a day-to-day basis.”
If you believe you have experienced racial discrimination or sexual harassment at work, contact Teukolsky Law today for a free consultation.
Lauren Teukolsky is the founder and owner of Teukolsky Law, A Professional Corporation.