A new lawsuit alleges that some employees and managers of the iconic Plaza Hotel have created a culture of widespread sexual harassment where female employees are regularly groped, propositioned, and catcalled by male coworkers.
According to six current and former employees of The Plaza and The Palm Court—the iconic restaurant located in the hotel's lobby—the "institutional indifferences of the Hotel" allowed for a "hostile and permissive culture" in which female employees were forced to deal with harassment on a regular basis. When those employees went to supervisors and human resources with complaints of inappropriate behavior, they were brushed aside or even punished, the lawsuit alleges.
"We will utilize all of our resources to ensure that The Plaza will no longer be able to ignore its female employees who are victimized by its managers and staff, and that The Plaza will no longer use its reputation and influence to blame the victims or silence them," Andrew Goodstadt, the attorney representing the six female Plaza employees, said in a statement.
In one of several instances of harassment highlighted in the suit, Christian Floren—the most senior ranking employee at The Palm Court—is accused of cornering female employee Dana Lewis in a coat check closet, then forcibly kissing and groping her. Lewis claims that when she refused his advances, Floren began crying, then begged her not to tell the Human Resources department. During a performance review following the incident, Floren allegedly tried to put his hands in Lewis's pants, and once again started crying after he was rebuffed.
Other female employees report similar encounters with both supervisors and colleagues. Several women accused server and union delegate Syed Islam of verbal harassment, and said they were dissuaded by other union delegates from taking those complaints public. Others said they were routinely catcalled and whistled at while walking through the kitchen to change uniforms.
When employees complained to HR about these incidents, no disciplinary steps were taken, the suit alleges, and some employees were even warned to avoid male attention by dressing more conservatively. At least one female employee was placed on leave for mentioning the harassment to hotel management, the complaint alleges.
In response to the allegation, a spokesperson for Fairmont Hotels, which manages The Plaza, told Gothamist, "Any attempt at harassment or discrimination toward our colleagues and guests has not and never will be tolerated. We are proud of our differences, actively prioritizing gender equality, diversity and inclusion. We take all claims of harassment or discrimination seriously, take appropriate remedial action where warranted, and do not retaliate against any staff member who raises a claim of harassment or discrimination in good faith."