The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed suit against an East Meadow (Long Island) diner. The EEOC says that Colony Diner subjected female employees to a hostile work environment.
Colony Diner is owned by two brothers, George and Thomas Strifas. George typically worked the day shift while Thomas worked at night. According to the complaint,
“Owner George Strifas subjected the women who work at Colony Diner to a hostile work environment based on sex. This includes, but is not limited to:
- regularly subjecting female employees to unwelcome, non-consensual physical touching including, but not limited to, grabbing their thighs, hips, buttocks, waist, back and shoulders and pushing his genital area into their buttocks;
- regularly asking women sexual questions such as whether they recently had sex, whether they had been “fucked too hard” and similar kinds of questions;
- regularly demeaning women by yelling at them, telling them only to answer him with “Yes, George,” or “No, George,” and telling customers, “She doesn’t know what she is talking about” or similar words to the same effect, when male employees were not treated in this way;
- regularly stating that men were better employees than women because they were “more reliable;”
- regularly calling women “slobs,” “lazy,” and “fat,” but not making these same remarks about male employees or customers;
- regularly telling the female servers and hostesses to wear tight clothing to work, as well as high heeled shoes and shirts that showed cleavage;
- regularly talking about sexual experiences, as well as announcing his sexual desires for female employees and female customers, including statements like he wanted to “fuck the shit” out of a female customer “while her husband watches” or words to that effect; and
- regularly remarking about the appearance of female customers to the female employees, including opining that a customer had “perfect breasts,” a “great ass,” or similar words to that effect.
That was just George.
George and Thomas allegedly did other things that made female employees uncomfortable. That included,
- “made daily remarks of a sexual or derogatory nature about the appearance of female employees, including about their hair, makeup, clothing, body and weight, such as, “You look terrible,” “You have a good body,” “Her breasts are huge,” “Her ass looks good in those pants,” and similar remarks to the same effect;
- frequently invaded the personal space of female employees when speaking to them, despite not doing the same to male employees;
- explicitly announced that they wanted to have sex with certain female employees and customers; and
- regularly asked female employees about their personal lives, including by asking, “When was the last time you got lucky?,” or “When was the last time you got it?” or similar words to that effect; whether they were married or dating anyone; whether they “got fucked up” last night; or whether they shaved their pubic hair."
From the findings of the EEOC, working at the Colony Diner was run like a frat house. Not only did the two Strifas brothers directly make derogatory comments to female workers, they didn’t take action when a male busboy and a male server repeatedly grabbed some of the women.
We examined federal court records and it appears this isn’t the first time that the Strifas brothers have been accused of sexual harassment, gender discrimination or not paying their employees. One female employee sued George in 2017 after he asked her if she wanted a “sugar daddy,” apparently referring to himself as an individual who would give her financial support if she engaged in sexual activity with him. He also asked for naked pictures.
Court records reveal that a George Strifas in East Meadow was convicted of tax evasion in 2014.
Obviously the diner hasn’t yet had its day in court. We don’t yet know what George and Thomas have to say for themselves. A lawyer for the diner told Newsday, "We are aware of the allegations contained in the lawsuit against Colony Diner.They are merely allegations which Colony Diner denies, and which will be vigorously defended in court."
Our prediction? The frat house behavior may not end at Colony Diner but it’s about to get very expensive.
What Does Hostile Environment Mean?
Assuming the findings by the EEOC are accurate, most people will agree that women working at the Colony Diner had a hostile work environment. But what does that term mean?
A bad boss, a dirty workplace, a rude coworker, failure to qualify for a promotion, or the lack of perks, privileges, benefits, and recognition might make for an unpleasant work environment. A hostile environment is a legal term, however.
If someone’s behavior actions make your job impossible AND those actions or behaviors are discriminatory in nature, you probably have a hostile environment that violates federal civil rights law. This story about the Colony Diner – and the work we do – focuses on gender based discrimination. Some call that sexual harassment. The federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers many forms of discrimination including race, gender, color, religion, sexual orientation, ancestry, national origin, pregnancy, age, or disability.
Our national team and network of sexual harassment lawyers are on the forefront of the battle against sexual harassment. We concentrate on the restaurant and hospitality industry where sexual harassment remains rampant yet many service industry workers are young and don’t know their rights or live day to day and too afraid of creating waves.
We urge you to visit our service industry sexual harassment information page. Many workers, some teens, have been awarded millions of dollars. While not everyone can expect those results, taking action means taking control of your own destiny and helping ensure that others who follow you will have an easier time.
To see if you have a case, contact us online, by email [hidden email] or by phone 877-858-8018. All inquiries kept confidential. If we don’t have a lawyer nearby chances are we know someone.
[Photo courtesy of Hans Vivek on Unsplash]