Strega Waterfront Restaurant Found Liable For Sexual Harassment

Employment, Racial Justice

Strega Waterfront Restaurant Found Liable For Sexual Harassment Of Latina Employee

Low-Wage Worker Subjected To Sexual Proposals, Offensive Comments From Her Supervisor

In the latest in a string of sexual harassment incidents involving prominent restaurants, a former kitchen employee announced today that she was sexually harassed at Strega Waterfront Restaurant in Boston, and that the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) has ordered the restaurant to undertake far-reaching reforms as a result and pay damages.

The employee, Luvina Hernandez, is a 25-year old Latina woman. The recent court case filed by five low-wage Latina kitchen workers against McCormick & Schmick’s in Boston inspired Ms. Hernandez to come forward and to speak publicly about her sexual harassment experience at Strega and the favorable MCAD ruling she secured in September 2017. “Seeing other women like me who work in restaurants come forward gave me the strength and courage to say me too,” said Ms. Hernandez.

In the fall of 2013, Ms. Hernandez began working on the dessert line of Strega Waterfront Restaurant, an Italian eatery in Boston’s Seaport District. Throughout her employment, she was subjected to offensive and inappropriate sexual comments from her direct supervisor, Salvatore Firicano, including asking her if she was a virgin and if her breasts were “real or . . . had been operated on.”

Mr. Firicano also requested that Ms. Hernandez give him a massage.

“I cried when I got home from work because of the constant abuse,” said Ms. Hernandez when discussing the MCAD ruling and her decision to come forward and speak publicly.

In the September 2017 ruling, the MCAD found Strega Restaurant, Mr. Firicano, and the Varano Group (Strega’s owner) liable for subjecting Ms. Hernandez to a sexually hostile work environment. The MCAD found that the sexual comments were “pervasive,” “demeaning and humiliating,” and “intimidating.” The MCAD ordered Strega to “cease and desist” from any actions that create a sexually hostile work environment, to institute a training program for its managers, and to implement a formal sexual harassment policy. It also awarded $20,000 in damages to Ms. Hernandez. The restaurant has filed an appeal of those rulings and is expected to file legal briefs with the MCAD this month.

“I am speaking out now to inspire other women who have been victimized. I want them to know that they have rights,” added Ms. Hernandez.

Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, the Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, called the national movement “a watershed moment.” “Low-wage workers have long been subjected to sexual harassment, but they are now speaking up. They are creating a powerful public backlash against sexual harassment. Businesses should not condone sexual harassment. Companies that try to defend this type of reprehensible conduct do so at their peril,” added Mr. Espinoza-Madrigal.

Mr. Hernandez is represented by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice and the law firm of WilmerHale on a pro bono basis.

Learn more about this sexual harassment matter in the Boston Globe, Boston Business Journal, El Planeta, NECN, CBS, and WHDH.