AJ’s Oyster Shanty waitress says she was fired after reporting manager’s assault

FORT WALTON BEACH — A waitress at a local seafood restaurant says she was fired just hours after she called police about an assault she said was part of ongoing harassment by a kitchen manager.

Now, she’s suing AJ’s Oyster Shanty LLC for employment discrimination, according to a complaint filed Aug. 30 in the Northern District of Florida.

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A waitress is suing AJ’s Oyster Shanty for employment discrimination, according to a complaint filed Aug. 30 in the Northern District of Florida.

The woman, 41, filed a charge of discrimination with the Florida Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Florida Human Relations Commission on May 24, 2021.

The EEOC is still investigating the allegations. However, the federal agency granted the waitress the right to file a lawsuit on June 14, 2022. The lawsuit alleges that the waitress endured gender discrimination and sexual harassment, as well as retaliation for speaking out.

What the lawsuit alleges

The woman worked as a server at AJ’s Oyster Shanty in Fort Walton Beach from Feb. 8, 2021, to April 30, 2021, the complaint states.

The restaurant’s owner did not respond to requests for comment by the time this article was published.

Before she was fired, the complaint says management repeatedly told the waitress to “ignore” the kitchen manager’s behavior and that “nothing would be done to change the situation.” The lawsuit says the restaurant “sided” with the kitchen manager.

The waitress was originally assigned to the night shift, which was also worked by the kitchen manager. During the shift, the kitchen manager treated the female staff “horribly” and called them sexually derogatory and degrading names, according to the lawsuit.

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The complaint says he would invade the woman’s space by “standing inches away from her when he didn’t need to be that close” and walk behind her in an “attempt to scare her.” She is also accused of insulting her appearance.

After reporting his treatment to management, the complaint states, the waitress was switched to the day shift, which caused her pay to decrease. The kitchen manager then started coming in at noon and his behavior “worsened,” according to the lawsuit.

He continued to call the waitress derogatory names, and at one point, the complaint states, “threw a sharp steak knife into her chest.”

When she reported the incident to management, she was told it was not caught on camera and nothing was done, the lawsuit states. His behavior then became “even more violent” toward the waitress, according to the complaint.

On another occasion, the woman’s complaint says he hit her in the kitchen soup well. Another manager told her the incident “didn’t happen” because it wasn’t on camera.

Waitress seeks damages, jury trial

The waitress then called the police to file a report about the assault, and was fired four hours later, according to the lawsuit. When police asked to see surveillance video of the attack, the complaint says the restaurant refused without a warrant or subpoena.

The lawsuit says the restaurant’s “failure to act” on the woman’s complaints caused her anxiety and stress and resulted in “tension and hostility” toward the waitress from the kitchen manager and other staff members.

The complaint further alleges that there was no “substantial or reasonable justification” for the woman’s termination. According to the lawsuit, he was not previously warned about poor job performance.

The lawsuit seeks to have the woman reinstated as a waitress and to be awarded back wages she would have earned, as well as other lost benefits. It also seeks damages, compensatory damages, attorney’s fees and a trial by jury.

This article originally appeared in the Northwest Florida Daily News: AJ Oyster Shanty waitress sues, says she was harassed and assaulted

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