A popular Park Slope restaurant is finding itself embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal, as former female employees have come out to speak against the restaurant's head chef and namesake, Juventino Avila.
To accompany their claims, a group of 22 women who once worked at Juventino on Fifth Avenue have started Juventino Disclosed, a website that details an especially hostile work environment allegedly created by Avila.
The site includes a letter signed by the women:
The food is seductive, but behind this restaurant’s charming facade lies a toxic work environment where employees are publicly berated, servers are paid less than the legal tipped minimum wage, 17-hour work-days without breaks are demanded, and young women are subjected to unwanted sexual advances behind the closed and locked doors of Juventino’s office.
We understand that it is bold to come out publicly with our concerns and experiences.
Juventino, however, has consistently refused to acknowledge or take responsibility for his actions, even choosing to spread falsehoods about former employees who left after feeling mistreated.
We believe Juventino is doing a disservice not only to his servers of the past and present, but to his incredibly hardworking and honorable cooks, and ultimately to you, the unwitting guest whose patronage sustains his business and misbehavior.
The site also includes a "Resources" tab with links to the city's Commission on Human Rights and provides a definition for sexual harassment.
Avila has denied ever making any sexual advances towards his staff, but did acknowledge the restaurant was "fast-paced." He told Jezebel, "One could describe the [environment] as intense. But I have a mom, and I have sisters, and [sexual harassment] is something I would never condone or be a part of. I know it's common at restaurants, but I don't accept it."
Only one of the workers is considering legal action against Avila, but most of the women say they want the site to work as a portal for other victims of sexual harassment to have readily available information they need to know to take action.
Unfortunately, sexual harassment in the workplace, particularly in restaurants, is a widespread problem. In a study conducted by MSNBC, 40 percent of reported harassment cases in 2011 stemmed from restaurants.
And who can forget the recent accusations of workers dangling "penis dumplings" to taunt a female employee?
If you couple Juventino Disclosed's claims with allegations currently being made against Brooklyn assemblyman Vito Lopez, we can't help but ask when is it all going to stop.
Juventino Avila in a cooking video below: