Olive Garden Cook Sues Over Co-Worker’s Ceaseless Dry-Humping

REUTERS/Rick Wilking
REUTERS/Rick Wilking

When you’re here, you’re family. That is, if your family members compulsively dry-hump you against your will and refuse to stop even after you notify law enforcement.

A former line cook at a Baltimore-area Olive Garden is suing the chain over a co-worker’s “incessant rubbing and grinding of his pelvis” against her derrière—dozens of times a day.

That’s according to a federal lawsuit obtained by The Daily Beast, in which “Jane Doe” accuses her bosses at the White Marsh Mall Olive Garden and parent company Darden Restaurants of letting the situation get so intolerable that she was forced to quit.

“Each shift, without fail, [the co-worker] consistently rubbed and pressed his crotch against Plaintiff’s behind when he walked behind her,” the May 9 lawsuit states. “This happened several times per shift that they worked together—sometimes more than 20 times in a single 8-hour shift. Anytime Plaintiff bent over to get ice from the machine or to perform other regular duties assigned to her, [the co-worker in question] found a way to position himself directly behind her and press his crotch up against her behind.”

Doe claims in her suit that even when there were “multiple routes” for her alleged tormentor to get to his workstation, he “always took a route that led him past Plaintiff and then rubbed himself against her.” When Doe complained to management, she says her hours were “drastically decreased,” taking away her ability to earn a living wage and forcing her to quit. (The Daily Beast is not identifying the co-worker, as he is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.)

“Our client has experienced sexual harassment that is all too common in the restaurant industry,” Doe’s attorney, Tamara Slater of Washington, D.C. law firm Alan Lescht and Associates, told The Daily Beast. “She was subjected to verbal harassment. She was subjected to physical harassment that involved unlawful touching. As a result of this unlawful treatment, she ended up unemployed. It has caused her extreme distress. It has been a long and difficult road to seeking justice and we are looking forward to working to vindicating her rights in court.”

For its part, Darden says Doe did not prove “that her working conditions were so intolerable that a reasonable person in her position would have felt compelled to resign,” according to a motion to dismiss filed May 29.

The origins of the case can be traced back to August 2022, when Doe was hired at an Olive Garden in Nottingham, Maryland, according to the suit. At first, Doe’s co-worker “was friendly to her,” it says. But within a week, the ceaseless dry-humping began.

Doe “felt violated and feared for her safety every day,” the lawsuit states, contending that her co-worker’s “disgusting behavior” had her “constantly on edge and humiliated while at work.”

“She became vigilant to avoid him and check her surroundings at all times for fear that he would again grind his pelvis against her,” the suit goes on.

By that October, Doe had had enough and told her general manager. But he told her “that she should not ‘miss out on a husband,’” the lawsuit claims. So Doe complained to another manager, who also allegedly didn’t do anything to end the harassment.

The “company’s tolerance of his vulgar behavior” only “emboldened” the crotch-grinder, the suit says.

In late November 2022, Doe’s co-worker pinned her against a towel rack in the restroom, which she says injured her back. At this point, she decided to go to the police, according to the lawsuit. And while court filings do not make clear if the cops did anything about it, it says, in no uncertain terms, that Olive Garden still did not. The location’s general manager told Doe that he had spoken with the co-worker and that the co-worker “knows not to do it again,” the lawsuit says. In addition, the general manager’s supervisor said she had also had a talk with the co-worker.

However, Doe was told the dry-humper wouldn’t be fired, according to the suit.

From here, things only got worse, according to Doe’s lawsuit. It says management slashed her hours and began training replacements for her. By her eighth month on the job, her shifts had been cut by at least 25 percent, and she “had no choice but to resign.”

In its motion to dismiss, Darden said, “Even if the Court considers all of her allegations, Plaintiff has utterly failed to allege intolerability.” In fact, the motion continues, Doe’s working conditions were “less objectively intolerable” than those in a similar case thrown out in 2019 by the Fourth Circuit.

Doe is demanding a jury trial, along with yet-to-be-determined pecuniary damages; compensatory damages, punitive damages, lost wages and benefits, and attorney’s fees.

Attorneys for Darden did not respond to The Daily Beast’s requests for comment.

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