Restaurant Sued For Sexual Harassment

Written by
Abraham Jaros
Updated on Sunday, Oct 1, 2023

By Daniel Maurer | December 11, 2009 |

Owner Sean Meenan refrained from commenting, but we’ve now spoken to Café Habana’s attorney, David Jaroslawicz, about the lawsuit that attorney Maimon Kirschenbaum filed yesterday against the trendy Nolita eatery, on behalf of waitresses who claim they were sexually harassed. Jaroslawicz tells us, “The same lawyers have sued almost every restaurant in town. This is a word-processor generated complaint, where they figure that if they get discovery, they’re going to find someone who didn’t get a proper lunch break.” Asked about the very nonboilerplate accusations of sexual harassment, Jaroslawicz says, “This appears to be a copycat case, from what I read in the paper, of the Hawaiian Tropic Zone, with an active imagination.”

Jaroslawicz says that, contrary to accusations that the servers were illegally forced to share tips with hostesses, the restaurant doesn’t employ salaried hostesses, but rather has its waitresses seat customers on a rotating basis. Regarding the servers’ allegations that they were pressured into appearing in the “Habana Girls” calendar, Jaroslawicz says, “Nobody was pressured into anything. The guy [owner Sean Meenan]’s mother, wife, and a 5-year-old daughter of one of the waitresses posed for this calendar. This is not Hustler magazine we’re talking about.” Pointing out that the proceeds from the calendar go to Meenan’s charity, Jaroslawicz says, “This brings to mind Oscar Wilde’s adage, ‘No good deed goes unpunished.'”

Jaroslawicz denies that servers who appeared in the calendar received different hours from those who didn’t, and refutes Janiela Johnson’s claim, in the complaint, that she was fired for complaining about tips vanishing, perhaps due to a coke-snorting bartender: “She was found to be in the U.S. illegally and was terminated.” Jaroslawicz says that when Johnson applied for the job, “she apparently had some phony social-security number,” and she was terminated as soon as she revealed that she was an illegal alien. “Then they throw in this nonsense about a bartender doing cocaine and stealing every shift she worked. Did she ever tell anybody about this? Who is this alleged bartender? Was she making $10,000 a night that she was willing to let them steal $100 per shift?”

“Originally they claimed sexual harassment,” says Jaroslawicz. “When they knew that wouldn’t hold, they added alleged wages and shifts.” Jaroslawicz says their original letter complaining about sexual harassment “was obviously drafted by a lawyer and allegedly written by the plaintiff,” and he laughs off accusations that one server was pressured into going on a date with Owen Wilson. “If the complaint had been drafted this week, it would’ve been Tiger Woods.”

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