Metro Weekly

Gay Restaurant Workers Awarded $150,000 in Discrimination Lawsuit

Couple says they were repeatedly harassed and called anti-gay slurs while working in London Italian restaurant.

A waiter in a restaurant setting the table. – Photo: Bo Li, via Dreamstime.

A married gay couple have been awarded more than £120,000, or about $150,000 U.S. dollars, after suing their former employer, a London-based Italian restaurant, for anti-LGBTQ discrimination. 

Tim Jeurninck, a waiter, and his husband, Marco Scatena, an employee and part-owner of the restaurant, claim they were “bullied for months on end” and subjected to “constant slurs” from higher-ups at the restaurant Piatto, in London’s Battersea Park neighborhood.

According to the Daily Mail, based on testimony given before a South London tribunal, one of the restaurant’s directors referred to Jeurninck as a “waitress” on more than one occasion, and frequently referred to him as a “f*****g f****t.”

That director would regularly hurl other homophobic slurs at Jeruninck, and refused to stop, even when Jeruninck would protest. 

Jeurninck testified at trial that in July 2018, that same person screamed at him, calling him “frocio,” the Italian word for “f****t,” before “screaming an entire monologue” at him. That director also threatened Jeurninck, saying his family in Italy “were in the Mafia” and “could harm” Scatena’s family members still living in Italy, all while making a hand gesture “indicating that he would be killed.”

On another occasion, that director complained about a cleaned glass, telling Jeurninck “I thought you [gay] people knew how to clean better.”

Jeurninck protested, but the director replied: “I am a real man unlike you. I won’t have a little f*****t talk to me like this,” before spitting at him.

A fellow restaurant employee testified in court that she had heard that director “exclusively” talk in Italian in order to exclude Jeurninck, who is Dutch, referring to him by homophobic slurs.

Scatena, as a part owner, testified that he had never received a dividend payment and was constantly harassed by the other three restaurant directors. The three baselessly accused Scatena of being lazy and stupid, and of stealing from the cash register — an assertion that the tribunal found no evidence to support.

The tribunal heard evidence about the other directors’ treatment of Scatena, including a series of WhatsApp messages that showed them discussing how to set up a “nice trap” so they could “speed up the process to kick him out.”

One of the other directors sent Scatena screenshots of their conversation, which included “offensive” messages containing “threats of violence and homophobic statements.”  The conversation caused Scatena to have a severe panic attack and go on sick leave. He was not paid for the time he was out of work.

During one such meeting without Scatena present, the other three directors called Jeurninck to bring them drinks, and referred to him as a “waitress” multiple times. When he again protested his treatment, they laughed at him and called him homophobic slurs.

In December 2018, Jeurninck resigned, claiming he hadn’t been paid his regular wages since March 2018. In April 2019, Scatena resigned, in protest of the mistreatment he suffered. The couple subsequently sued the restaurant for discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The tribunal ultimately decided in favor of the couple, finding there was “more than enough evidence” that the other directors had tried to force Scatena out of the restaurant because he was gay.

“It would be perverse to find otherwise,” employment Judge Alexander Green declared.

“Mr. Jeurninck and Mr. Scatena have established they suffered from unwanted conduct as a result of their sexual orientation, which had the purpose of violating their dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment for them,” Green said. “They were quite clearly deeply offended and threatened by the behavior. They have established that they were harassed because of their sexual orientation.”

Jeurninck was awarded £41,732, or more than $50,000 in U.S. dollars, and Scatana was awarded £83,102, or nearly $100,000 in U.S. dollars, for their suffering. 

Anti-gay harassment can be common in the restaurant industry, regardless of whether it occurs in the United States or abroad. A few years ago, on Long Island, a gay employee alleged he was beaten and subjected to anti-gay harassment by his employer. In Virginia, a restaurant was ordered to pay a gay employee $20,000 for on-the-job discrimination. And a former New Jersey server claimed she was fired for being transgender.

Still other incidents involve hostility toward LGBTQ customers, such as a teenage couple who claim they were kicked out of a Chicago restaurant for hugging, or a couple who was asked to leave a Bronx restaurant for showing affection. 

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