Lawsuit Claims Rape Culture at TopGolf USA
“Sexual harassment is part of working in a kitchen. Get used to it.” Ciara Williams says that is what she was told when she complained to her supervisor about sexual harassment at her workplace. Williams and three other women claim they were sexually harassed while working at Top Golf in Las Vegas.
KTNV Las Vegas first reported in October 2020 that 38-year-old Cierra Williams had filed suit against the popular Las Vegas strip golf destination.
According to the complaint, Williams worked in the kitchen at Top Golf. She says a chef there harassed her on a daily basis. The harassment included “including making vulgar and offensive sexual comments and advances; non-consensual touching and groping; thrusting against her hips and buttocks while laughing; touching of buttocks and breasts; and sending of offensive text messages and phone calls.” On one occasion her boss even showed up at her home.
Ultimately, she says she was raped in a walk-in freezer. When she reported the assault to management, her supervisor suggested that sexual harassment was normal in the food service industry. An HR manager told her not to go to the police because the matter “wasn’t serious enough to involve law enforcement.” Instead, the manager promised that “HR would investigate and handle everything.” Their handling meant a week over for Williams and a promotion for Hinojosa.
Three other women have come forward and claimed they were also sexually harassed by the same chef. That chef, Silvino Hinojosa, was arrested in an unrelated incident and charged with sexual assault of a five-year-old child. He was subsequently charged with first degree kidnapping and sexual assault of Ms. Williams.
New allegations released last week by KTNV say that Top Golf tried to cover up Ciera’s story. Her attorney says that after reporting the rape to HR, they changed her story to say that Hinojosa simply put her hand on her shoulder.
Now that more victims have come forward, one reports that she too was sexually assaulted by Hinojosa after he lured her to a vacant house.
Employers Are Responsible for Sexual Assaults by Employees
Suing the chef, Silvino Hinojosa, is probably a useless endeavor. Unemployed cooks typically don’t have much money and if all the criminal complaints against him are true, he is probably going to be in jail for quite some time.
In sexual assault cases, the criminal justice system typically deals with the rapist. Civil justice usually comes from the employer. Although employers are not always responsible for the criminal acts of a co-worker, they can be held responsible for both sexual harassment and criminal sexual assault if they failed to properly supervise their workers or failed to act after knowing there was a problem.
Sadly, we believe the sexual assaults and maybe even the unrelated sexual assault of the young child could have been prevented if Top Golf acted earlier.
According to the new complaint,
"Topgolf created, condoned, and covered up a misogynistic 'frat boy' culture at its Las Vegas location, where severe and pervasive sexual harassment, abuse, and assault of low-level employees was accepted, normalized, laughed about, and seemingly even rewarded."
Frat boy culture? We think it is more like rape culture. And it doesn’t seem to be restricted to TopGolf’s Las Vegas location. We believe another similar complaint has been filed against the company over incidents that occurred at their Oklahoma City location.
No company can 100% protect every employee, every minute of the day. But if the allegations against the company are correct, they have failed miserably to protect their female staff.
TopGolf has locations across the United States. According to their website, their current locations include:
- Phoenix (Gilbert)
- Phoenix (Glendale)
- Phoenix (Scottsdale)
- Tucson (Marana)
- Northwest Arkansas (Rogers)
- Denver (Centennial)
- Denver (Thornton)
- Miami (Doral)
- Miami Gardens
- Lake Mary
- Atlanta (Alpharetta)
- Atlanta (Midtown)
- Chicago (Naperville)
- Chicago (Schaumburg)
- Kansas City (Overland Park)
- D.C. (Germantown)
- D.C. (National Harbor)
- Minneapolis (Brooklyn Center)
- Cincinnati (West Chester)
- DFW (Allen)
- DFW (Dallas)
- DFW (Fort Worth)
- DFW (The Colony)
- El Paso
- Houston (Katy)
- Houston (Spring)
- Houston (Webster)
- San Antonio
- D.C. (Loudoun)
- Virginia Beach
TopGolf Sexual Harassment Lawyers
Have you been the victim of sexual harassment at Top Golf? Even if you no longer there, you may be entitled to compensation. Unlike what one manager may have said, “sexual harassment is NOT part of working in a kitchen.”
In a report called “The Glass Floor: Sexual Harassment in the Restaurant Industry”, issued by the Restaurant Opportunity Center United and Forward Together, researchers found that nearly 37 percent of all claims of sexual harassment come from the restaurant industry. That’s an astronomical statistic.
There are many reasons why sexual harassment is so prevalent in the service industry. When it comes to sexual harassment by co-workers and managers, we believe the reasons for such a high percentage of harassment are fourfold:
- Restaurant management is still a “man’s world. Almost three-quarters of restaurant servers are women, but most of the higher-paying roles, like managers and supervisors, are men. Unfortunately in many restaurants, sexual harassment really is part of working in a restaurant. We hope to end that now.
- Restaurants have a high turnover rate. With a turnover rate of almost 70%, many servers and kitchen employees treat a restaurant job as temporary employment. Many victims of harassment just leave and never consider making a claim for damages.
- Looks matter. In many restaurants, female staff are hired on the basis of looks. And because wages are typically low, many workers are quite young.
- Many restaurant kitchen workers are not native born Americans. For many recent immigrants to the United States, there first job is working in a kitchen. Often these folks aren’t proficient in English, don’t know our laws and don’t want to make waves. That makes them especially vulnerable to predatory co-workers and managers.
Restaurant workers – whether or not they are at TopGolf - should never feel like they have to stay silent. Sexual harassment or sexual assault is not acceptable – and it shouldn’t be an occupational hazard for anybody.
Sexual harassment and abuse are against the law. There are legal ramifications for the perpetrators of those crimes. Recently a young worker at Chipotle received $7.6 million after being abused by a male manager.
Worried about paying for a lawyer? Don’t. We only get paid if we are successful collecting money for you. To learn more, visit our hospitality and service industry sexual harassment information page. Ready to see if you have a case? Contact us online, by email [hidden email] or by phone 888.249.6944.
All inquiries are protected by the attorney – client privilege and kept confidential. We consider TopGolf sexual harassment cases nationwide.
[Photo credit: Proriat Hospitality and Unspash.com]