Tipped Off is dedicated to providing a space for employees to speak openly and honestly about their work experiences, without confrontation or retribution. In hopes to achieve this goal, we are actively working with our attorney on updating our Terms of Service, to ensure that both our business and our users are adequately protected.
In January 2018, we attempted to work with a business to responsibly and fairly post two controversial reviews, with the intention of giving the business an equal voice and opportunity to respond on the same day we were to post the reviews. As per Tipped Off policies, we also planned to omit anything inflammatory, personal, or irrelevant to understanding the work culture prior to posting the review.
Due to the threat of legal action from the business NOT mentioned below, proper names and/or gender pronouns that would identify the litigious party, locations, and any other potentially identifying information has been removed from the reviews. They are otherwise unedited.
Following the reviews, you can read our story about the course of events that led to this unusual post.
With that, let’s dive in!
In late December of 2017, we received the following two reviews within 20 minutes of each other. This to us, raised some red flags about the motivations behind the reviews. The content of the reviews raised even more.
What's it like working there? What DO YOU LIKE about it?
The other staff members were easy to get along with, and I'd look forward to going to work to spend time with them. The chef, [redacted], is incredibly talented and passionate about his craft. It's a casual, homey atmosphere; guests come to relax, have a couple cocktails, and enjoy the meal. They're generally open to your suggestions, so it's easy to raise your check average. I appreciated that the management would invite wine, beer, and alcohol reps to educate us about the product. I also appreciated the shift meals (filling, but not anywhere close to the quality of food served) and shift beers.
What DON'T YOU LIKE about working there?
In one word: the [owner and/or manager name redacted; henceforth OAOM]. Expectations were never communicated clearly, and service standards changed constantly without warning. You never knew when you were going to get yelled at in the middle of the dining room during service for handing out the [food item] with the wrong spoon--when you had never been told what spoon to use in the first place. I'm more than happy to adapt to the OAOM’s priorities, since they of course have the highest stakes in the business, but it's not okay when you're an adult and professional being spoken to like a misbehaving 5 year old, in front of people.
I hate to take it here, but I couldn't help but notice that OAOM only spoke to female servers that way; OAOM’s tendency with male servers was to become their "buddy" and high-five them every time OAOM walked past, inviting them out for cigarette breaks with OAOM. It was a pattern that I eventually couldn't help but notice. Specifically because OAOM utterly failed to separate [their] personal life from [their] professional life, to such an extent that I could hardly sit by and listen to the way [they] spoke to one particular employee with whom OAOM had bad blood personally.
I have never in my life heard a boss speak to an employee in such a disrespectful way, or simply ignore her and refuse to respond when she tried to ask relevant questions during pre-shift meetings. I had gotten another part time job, but I had every intention of continuing to work at [redacted] as well.
There are a lot of good things about it. A lot of good people, decent money, and a great clientele. But, ultimately, it didn't feel right to keep giving my best for the benefit of a [gender redacted] whose deeply problematic (and borderline misogynistic) behavior I just can't support.
What's it like to work here? What DO YOU LIKE about working there?
I no longer work there. At first I very much enjoyed working there, but it declined quickly. The staff I worked with were good people, the chef there is very passionate about his food.
What DON'T YOU LIKE about working there?
I was fired from my job because [the owner and/or manager, name redacted], would not and could not communicate with me. It was an extremely frustrating working environment for many reasons on top of this.
One of the worst issues I had to deal with while working there was a four month long ordeal, leading to my termination, dealing with OAOM’s hiring of a new employee, who had a fairly shady reputation and OAOM’s inability to deal with issues that were brought to [their] attention constantly over that time frame. OAOM puts out there that [they are] this great "feminist" and advocate for women's rights, when this could not be farther from the truth.
When the employee, [X], was initially hired as a bartender, I was aware that he had left his previous job under suspicious circumstances. When he was working, he would constantly touch me, touch my face, at one point he licked my face, he would always try to rub my back or grab my waist. After a couple of weeks of this, I privately went to OAOM, as there is no HR department. I was told that unless I was "serious" about making a "real claim of sexual harassment" I should deal with this "like an adult and tell him to stop myself".
Obviously, if I had felt comfortable enough to have done this, I would have. I was working as [the establishment’s] beverage director/bar manager at the time, so I was in charge of coming up with all of our signature cocktails, placing orders for beer, liquor and wine, making the schedules and communicating with bar reps.
As, time went on, it became apparent that my complaints were being ignored and blatantly mocked because of OAOM’s’ friendship with [X]. After some time, a female employee asked me if I was still the bar manager. I was extremely surprised by this because of course I was. She then told me that [X] (who only worked 2-3 days a week) told her and a couple of female bar regulars that [X] was the manager and that he had created our whole cocktail menu.
This was a bold-faced lie.
As a woman in this industry, I have strived to be taken seriously and also get credit where it is due. I immediately told OAOM and asked for [their] intervention. I was told that this was all hearsay, and that I was "being petty and childish". OAOM talked to me as if [they were] berating a child.
This behavior from [X] continued, and only grew worse.
Almost everyday I had more and more employees coming forward to tell me that [X] was undermining me at every turn, by not setting up or tearing down the bar properly, by refusing to follow written and detailed recipes for drinks and continuously lying about his job status. Over and over, I would go to OAOM and explain how this was mentally affecting me and diminishing my job role. OAOM would respond to these issues by telling me that "I knew what my job was, isn't that good enough?" Or "[X] is just trying to impress girls at the bar, let him say whatever he wants."
These are not the things a feminist would say or do. I was being gas-lit on a day to day basis.
At one point, while managing, a male bartender pulled me aside and told me that [X] was stealing by giving away free drinks to a woman at the bar. I had personally witnessed this, as, the woman walked into the bar and before she even sat down he had poured her a glass of wine. I told him to just keep me aware of what was happening. After all was said and done, and we had both closely monitored what what happening the girl was poured 6 glasses of wine and paid for nothing. My bartender said there was a tab with a female’s name on it but there was only drink on the tab and it was for the cheapest beer we had. At the end of the shift, both myself and the bartender went to OAOM and told them what happened. OAOM pulled [X] aside and spoke with him, and then told both myself and the other bartender that "we were mistaken" and [X] had full intentions of paying for all those drinks (totaling $70) after his shift. This was obviously not the case, and OAOM just did not want to fire this employee because of their adulation for him. [X] and OAOM would frequently stay after hours at the bar together, drinking.
The worst of this came after OAOM hired a new female employee. About a week into her training, I was working with her and noticed she was making a drink incorrectly. I pointed out her mistake and she said "that’s how [X] told me to make the drink". I explained that while some drinks have multiple variations, this was a signature cocktail and needed to be made consistently, and that I had come up with that drink. She then asked me if I made all the cocktails to which I told her I did. She asked to speak with me in private, so we walked outside.
She then told me that [X] had lied to her, saying he was the the bar manger. Not only did he lie to her, he told her she had to meet with him privately, to talk about training. When she met with him at a different bar, he wouldn't stop touching her legs, tried to kiss her and she asked that he please give her a ride home. While driving her home he "took a wrong turn" and told her if she didn't go home with him, he would make sure she wouldn't be on the schedule. (I made the schedules).
I immediately told OAOM of [X]’s actions, with her consent. She had also told me she was afraid to work with him. Instead of OAOM firing him, after months of accusations from myself, and now actual sexual assault accusation from a completely different employee which also corroborated what I had said previously, OAOM conducted a week long "investigation" and continued to allow [X] to work there in this time frame, on two occasions while the female employee who he had assaulted was also working. In conclusion of these investigations, [X] was fired, but OAOM had told me that [their] "final decision was made because after talking to the chef, the chef had told [them] that yes, in fact, X had also lied to him about being the bar manager".
So, OAOM needed to hear from a male employee - after 3 female employees including myself - had confronted them about X's lying, thievery and sexual harassment - that we were indeed not "petty and childish" and in fact had been telling them this all along. After all of this, OAOM told me they "would never apologize to me if I thought that was coming" and [their] treatment of me declined severely. OAOM acted as though it was my fault [their] buddy had to be fired, and tried to make light of what had happened, even calling the female employee "crazy".
I don’t know how far from feminism this can get. If you wanted me to write a book I would start talking about [their] bullshit publicity stunt that was [redacted] Day, but I'd typing for days.
This was by far one of the worst experiences I've ever had in this city in the service industry, and I feel bad for the chef and FOH staff involved because they are extremely talented and deserve to be in a different position.
At Tipped Off, we strive to provide the public with as much honesty as possible within these posts. When serious allegations are submitted, such as the ones in these reviews, we contact the restaurant in question in an attempt to acquire more information, give them the chance to tell their side of the story, and/or review relevant documentation associated with the allegations.
We did just that after these two reviews.
The OAOM in question was initially very cooperative and assured us that these allegations, while partly true, were a misrepresentation of what had actually occurred, and further, that they had extensive documentation to prove that they handled these situations professionally and effectively.
Essentially, the OAOM confirmed that the events occurred, but disagreed with the reviewers’ characterization of how the events were handled.
The OAOM assured us that they had conducted a thorough and reasonable investigation on the advice of their attorney, and took appropriate action to terminate [X] when they felt they had enough information to act. The OAOM further asserted that they made extensive efforts to make sure that the victimized employees felt safe and empowered to speak.
We were impressed with the OAOM’s handling of these sexual harassment allegations, and had encouraged the OAOM to share advice with other OAOMs about how to protect their business, themselves, and their employees when sensitive matters like this arise. The OAOM agreed, and said in person and via text that they would start drafting a response.
A day later, the OAOM contacted Tipped Off to let us know that they would no longer be responding to the allegations because they were such a blatant misrepresentation of what had occurred. This puzzled us, as OAOM had previously asserted having relevant and extensive documentation to support their story. We urged the OAOM to change their mind and work with us. We went to the establishment in person to pitch the OAOM again and emphasized the importance of telling the story responsibly and empowering business owners to not fear creating a safe environment for their employees.
We wanted to hold up OAOM as an example of someone who was faced with a difficult situation, and, by their account, handled it responsibly, respectfully, and with proper documentation. OAOM did not confirm or reject the offer on that date.
A few days later, we were getting ready to post the reviews, as well as our story, and contacted the OAOM letting them know that we would need to see proof of this documentation before asserting on our website that it existed.
The next and only (at the time of press) correspondence we received was 3 days later, from the attorneys representing the establishment, threatening legal action on the grounds of libel if we were to post the reviews in question.
Tipped Off was created to increase transparency, and fostering conversations to build a better work environment in the restaurant industry. This OAOM was given several cordial opportunities to participate in the conversation, and also serve as a model for how OAOMs should conduct themselves in the face of sexual harassment allegations (should their account be true). When asked to show the alleged documentation, their next move was to cut all off communication and threaten to sue.
We are aware that there is fear from restaurant owners and managers that false allegations will be thrown on them via our site; we do everything in our power to control the content and investigate claims in a fair and responsible manner. But we could not bury these reviews just because the OAOM asked us to.
From an ethical standpoint, we believe that the burden of proof lies with the party that has more power; in this case, that is the business, and business owner/manager. The OAOM in question was either unwilling or unable to show us any documentation that supported their telling of the story.
For the protection of our business and to maintain the anonymity of our users, Tipped Off will not be commenting on the identity of any of the parties in this story, however we welcome opening a dialogue with our users and members of our community.
We hope this exchange can show restaurant owners that we are truly here to help, but we also will not be bullied or dismissed in our attempts to shed light on the less savory aspects of the restaurant industry.
We invite you to discuss this and other issues relevant to sexual harassment in the restaurant industry at our roundtable discussion this Sunday, February 11th, at Tina’s.