Case: Gathright v. Cheesecake Factory Inc. (Case No. 37-2017-00012229-CU-OE-CTL; Arbitration No. AAA 01-17-0003-9979) [sexual harassment/discrimination]
Court: AAA Arbitration; compelled to arbitration from Superior Court of San Diego County
Judge: Hon. Thomas P. Nugent, Ret.
Date: October 15, 2018
Facts & Allegations: Male on Male Sexual Harassment. Plaintiff, a heterosexual married father of three, was hired as a Kitchen Manager at one of the Cheesecake Factory’s restaurants in San Diego County. Soon after being hired, Plaintiff began being subjected to frequent sexualized comments and conduct – mostly by his male kitchen staff and supervisors. Plaintiffs’ superiors frequently shared detailed and unsolicited accounts of their heterosexual and homosexual exploits, encouraged employees to engage in “semen tasting contests, and encouraged and permitted male employees to physically touch Plaintiff and other male employees by simulating anal sex through bumping or grinding their crotch against the buttocks of the Plaintiff and other male employees. The conduct accosted Plaintiff’s sense of manhood and quickly turned to emasculate derision, calling Plaintiff a “bitch” and falsely taunting that Plaintiff “se la come” (in English: Plaintiff “sucks dick”). The environment became so toxic that Plaintiff eventually was forced to quit. Soon after leaving The Cheesecake Factory, Plaintiff was able to obtain an alternate job, thus largely cutting off his economic damages.
Arbitration Award: the Arbitrator relied primarily on Singleton v. United States Gypsum Co. (2006) 140 Cal.App.4th 1547 and Taylor v. Nabors Drilling USA, LP (2014) 222 Cal.App.4th 1228, holding that one of the elements of the FEHA is that the harassment must be “because of sex”, which includes the scenario where sex is used “as a weapon to create a hostile work environment” and to “target (the plaintiff’s) heterosexual identity.” Accordingly, the Arbitrator found in Plaintiff’s favor on all causes of action and awarded Plaintiff a total of $100,000.00 in emotional distress damages, $1,800.00 in lost income, and awarded Plaintiff’s counsel $434,061.53 in statutory attorneys’ fees and costs.
Slide 1 (complaint): Sexual Harassment Complaint against the Fashion Valley Cheesecake Factory restaurant. Click the image below to read the full complaint.
Slide 2 (pic of Juan Ponte): One of the alleged harassers at the Fashion Valley Cheesecake Factory Restaurant.