Route 9 Diner closes as attorney general files discrimination complaint

By Anthony Rentsch

(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)
(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

The Route 9 Diner in Hadley was closed Monday following action taken by Attorney General Maura Healey to file a discrimination complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination alleging more than a decade of sexual harassment of female employees in violation of federal and state anti-discrimination laws.

“We allege that this diner regularly subjected its waitresses to sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination, creating a hostile work environment,” Healey said in a statement.

Christopher Karabetsos and Argiris Sideris, the owners of the diner, are listed as the defendants.

Last year, former Route 9 Diner waitresses Marie Billiel and Jamie Young, among others, wrote blog posts detailing the sexual harassment they experienced while working at the diner.

Among other incidents, Billiel reported getting dragged into a walk-in cooler by a cook who was trying to kiss her and getting kissed on the neck by a cook without consent.

Young reported being cornered and forcibly kissed on the neck by cooks several times and being forced to show cooks her tongue before receiving her tables’ food.

The complaint said that the host and wait staff is primarily made up of young women, many of whom have “suffered extreme emotional distress” as a result of the treatment.

According to the complaint, which was filed March 27, the “diner’s male staff was not mistreated this way and instead was given preference and better treatment.”

Billiel and Young told the Collegian in November that the management did not take sufficient steps to make changes, despite complaints.

The complaint alleges that the owners Karabetsos and Sideris and managers Dimitrios Demos and Steven Kwak did not protect the waitresses even though they knew the harassment was going on and had the means to stop it.

The complaint said that waitresses had allegedly been told they were “easily replaceable and lucky to have jobs at the diner,” in response to these complaints. Karabetsos, Demos and Kwak allegedly joined in on the sexual harassment, “(belittling) and verbally (abusing) waitresses at the diner.”

According to the MCAD’s website, the commission expects cases to be investigated within 18 months of filing.

Following the blog posts of Billiel, Young and others, the Route 9 Diner, which opened in 2003, hired former Hampden County Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Dineen to conduct an internal review and “help ensure that management identifies any necessary protocols in creating a zero tolerance environment as it relates to any workplace sexual harassment.”

Periodical sexual harassment awareness training for all employees and additional training of management personnel led by a trainer who attended the MCAD sexual harassment training program was also instituted.

In November, Billiel and Young told the Collegian that they believed the actions would be insufficient.

A waitress who has been working at the diner for nine years told the Daily Hampshire Gazette Monday she believed the decision to close was based on financial reasons.

None of the Route 9 Diner’s owners or managers could be reached immediately for comment.

Anthony Rentsch can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Anthony_Rentsch.