SF-Based The Melt Fires Disabled Immigrant Worker After She Reported Ongoing Sexual Harassment by her Supervisor
SAN FRANCISCO (February 21, 2019) — Legal Aid at Work has filed a lawsuit against The Melt on behalf of Genesis Cifuentes, a disabled crew member who was fired after she reported ongoing sexual harassment and abuse at the California-based restaurant chain.
The Complaint filed February 20 alleges the harassment began when Ms. Cifuentes was approached by The Melt employee and supervisor Marlon Villalta, who asked her “if her ass was real or fake.” Ms. Cifuentes worked at a different location from Villalta but after reporting the incident to her manager, Ms. Cifuentes was transferred to The Melt’s Embarcadero location where Mr. Villalta worked.
As described in the Complaint, on Ms. Cifuentes’ first day of work at the new location, Mr. Villalta told her that she was “shitty” for telling on him and promised to “make her life impossible.” Afterward, Mr. Villalta’s harassment of Ms. Cifuentes grew worse. He grabbed Ms. Cifuentes’ buttocks and frequently followed her into the cellar to watch her. He also forced Ms. Cifuentes, who had previously been injured at work, to perform tasks that could worsen her injury.
According to the lawsuit, Ms. Cifuentes reported Mr. Villalta’s harassing and retaliatory behavior to several members of management, including the District Manager and the Head of Human Resources. Yet The Melt took no actions to end it. On the contrary, it fired Ms. Cifuentes when she attempted to report management’s inaction to The Melt’s CEO, whom she believed to be the owner of the restaurant.
“The Melt is a trendy West-Coast company that styles itself as caring about empowerment and responsibility. Yet its treatment of Ms. Cifuentes demonstrated exactly the opposite,” said Legal Aid at Work attorney Alexis Alvarez, who represents the Plaintiff.
While the abuse Ms. Cifuentes suffered at the well-known restaurant chain in San Francisco is shocking, it is hardly surprising. “Unfortunately, low-wage immigrant workers are often targets for sexual abuse precisely because they are so vulnerable,” said Ms. Alvarez, “It’s high time we demand accountability.”
The suit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, names as defendants The Melt and Mr. Villalta. The Complaint in the case is available here.
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About Legal Aid at Work:
Legal Aid at Work advances justice and economic opportunity for low-income people and their families at work, in school, and in the community. Its Gender Equity & LGBT Rights Program represents low-wage women workers subjected to unlawful sexual harassment in order to achieve some measure of justice and fair and safe workplaces. www.legalaidatwork.org