Route 9 Diner to pay up to $200,000 to resolve sexual harassment allegations

By Patricia Leboeuf

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(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

Former owners and managers of the Route 9 Diner in Hadley will pay up to $200,000 to resolve allegations that they engaged in and permitted the ongoing sexual harassment of female employees, according to Friday’s press release from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office.

The sum includes compensation to the alleged victims, many of whom suffered “physical harm, emotional distress and loss of tips and wages due to the pervasive sexual harassment and discrimination” they faced while working at the diner, according to the release.

“We allege that for more than a decade, waitresses at this diner were regularly subjected to harassment, degradation, mistreatment, and humiliation based on their gender, creating an unbearable and hostile work environment,” attorney general Maura Healey said in the release. “Our office will not tolerate anyone being sexually harassed in the workplace, and we will continue to hold accountable businesses that allow these kinds of discriminatory practices to occur.”

Friday’s resolution was handled by Genevieve Nadeau, deputy division chief of Healey’s civil rights division, and Paola Ozuna, a paralegal for the division and Shannon Roark and Kristen Salera of Healey’s investigations division.

The terms of the consent judgment call for former owners Christopher Karabetsos and Argiris Sideris and former managers Dimitrios Demos and Steven Kwak to pay $112,000 to resolve claims that they failed to protect waitresses at the diner from harassment, despite having knowledge of the behavior, according to the release.

The release said the remaining $88,000 owed is suspended, pending the defendants’ compliance with other terms of the agreement, which requires Karabetsos or Sideris to take specific steps like following strict anti-discrimination laws and hiring a human resources or equal employment opportunity consultant if they ever reopen a diner or any other establishment in the state.

The Route 9 Diner closed on March 30, 2015, following Healey’s filing of a complaint against the diner with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. The complaint alleged at least a decade of continuous sexual harassment of female employees at the diner in violation of federal and state anti-discrimination laws.

A number of former waitresses wrote blog posts describing their experiences of sexual harassment from cooks about a year prior to the closing.

All four owners and managers named in the settlement — Karabetsos, Sideris, Demos and Kwak – were individually listed in Healey’s 2015 complaint.

The MCAD complaint has been dismissed due to the settlement, according to the attorney general’s office.

The attorney general’s complaint included the experiences of 10 former waitresses and hostesses, according to the 2015 MCAD release.

Female employees were regularly subjected to unwanted touching, cat-calling, whistling, sexualized commentary and advances from cooks at the dinner, according to the complaint.

Waitresses reported the cooks’ actions to owners and managers multiple times and were told they were “easily replaceable,” according to the complaint.

Demos, Karabetsos and Kwak also allegedly contributed to the harassment against female employees as well, according to the complaint.

Friday’s consent judgment also settled a similar case by one of the Route 9 Diner’s former waitresses, who is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, according to Friday’s release.

Local restaurateur Andy Yee purchased the diner, located on Russell Street, in August and reopened it as Johnny’s Roadside Diner on Dec. 3, 2015.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at [email protected]