Many restaurants, bars rampant with sexual harassment

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Restaurants and bars still have a problem with sexual harassment. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Restaurants and bars still have a problem with sexual harassment. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Wyatt Lupton said he had just started working at a Scottsdale wine bar when he was sexually harassed. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Wyatt Lupton said he had just started working at a Scottsdale wine bar when he was sexually harassed. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
One waitress said she was fired after she complained about being sexually harassed. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) One waitress said she was fired after she complained about being sexually harassed. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

The “Me Too” movement has shed light on the problem of sexual harassment in Hollywood and Washington, D.C., but a CBS 5 Investigation found the problem is also rampant in the restaurant and bar industries.

While there are no statistics that track how often this happens, interviews with waiters, waitresses and a Phoenix attorney shed some light on the prevalence of sexual harassment in bars and restaurants.

“You have a vulnerable population of employees. Some of them, I think, it’s their first job. They don’t know exactly what to do when something like this happens,” said Meenoo Chahbazi, an employment attorney who handles sexual harassment and discrimination claims.

[RELATED: State pays millions to settle sexual harassment claims]

Chahbazi says the behavior of the abuser can range from harassment to outright assault.

“He literally grabbed me in my vagina twice. So that’s how he greeted me,” said one waitress, whose identity CBS 5 Investigates agreed to conceal in exchange for her story.

She says she was working at an upscale Phoenix restaurant when one of the cooks became aggressive with her.

“He constantly told me he wanted to ‘F’ me in the ass,” she said.

[RELATED: Social media responds to #MeToo with #IBelieveYou]

After reporting the incidents to the restaurant owners, she said she was fired.

“I was still told to work with him, or asked, rather, to work with him for the next three shifts. I had a panic attack and every single shift and I left early. And that was their reason for letting me go,” she said.

It isn’t just women who are targeted.

“They introduced me as the new gay employee,” said Wyatt Lupton, who had just started working at a Scottsdale wine bar. He says the problems started the first day and got worse.

“Wolf whistling, people making kissing noises, physical contact and it got more extreme by the day,” Lupton said. “I was dealing with so much stress that I had turned alcohol as a coping mechanism,” he said.

There is legal recourse available to victims of sexual harassment in the workplace, but it’s a long and difficult path.

Attorney Chahbazi says plaintiffs have to prove the activity was severe or pervasive.

“It’s either one or the other. Severe or pervasive. Severe can be something like assault, like a sexual assault. And Pervasive is an ongoing conduct,” said Chahbazi.

She recommends that victims begin to document harassing behavior as soon as possible.

Wyatt Lupton ended up filing a complaint through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and five years later, a judge ruled in his favor.

“I had to do something,” he said.

The waitress who described sexual assault and harassment at the hands of the cook ended up calling the police and filing a report.

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Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


Morgan  LoewMorgan Loew is an investigative reporter at CBS 5 News. His career has taken him to every corner of the state, lots of corners in the United States, and some far-flung corners of the globe.

Click to learn more about Morgan .

Morgan Loew
CBS 5 Investigates

Morgan’s past assignments include covering the invasion of Iraq, human smuggling in Mexico, vigilantes on the border and Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County. His reports have appeared or been featured on CBS News, CNN, NBC News, MSNBC and NPR.

Morgan’s peers have recognized his work with 11 Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards, two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for investigative reporting, an SPJ First Amendment Award, and a commendation from the Humane Society of the United States. In October 2016, Morgan was inducted into the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Silver Circle in recognition of 25 years of contribution to the television industry in Arizona.

Morgan is graduate of the University of Arizona journalism school and Concord Law School at Purdue University Global. He is the president of the Arizona First Amendment Coalition and teaches media law and TV news reporting at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

When he’s not out looking for the next big news story, Morgan enjoys hiking, camping, cheering for the Arizona Wildcats and spending time with his family at their southern Arizona ranch.

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