Restaurant denies wrongdoing in LGBT antibias case

Restaurant denies wrongdoing in LGBT antibias case

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An attorney for Loco Pez, a Fishtown restaurant accused of anti-LGBT bias, recently filed court papers denying any wrongdoing by the establishment.

Sebastian A. Cummings, a South Philadelphia gay man, worked at Loco Pez for about two months last year. He was a dishwasher and prepped food at the establishment, which caters to the Latin-American community.

According to Cummings’ March 1 federal lawsuit, he had no choice but to resign due to alleged pervasive anti-LGBT harassment at Loco Pez.

He alleges some coworkers regularly directed slurs at him, including “cock smokers,” “cock suckers,” “homos,” “faggots” and “girlfriends,” according to Cummings’ suit.

Cummings said Loco Pez’s head chef told him the coworkers meant no harm, saying: “I guarantee they won’t do anything [to you]” and “They don’t mean anything by it.”

But in a March 14 answer to Cummings’ suit, an attorney for Loco Pez wrote that the restaurant was responsive to Cummings’ concerns.

The filing states: “[Cummings] and [the head chef] had a brief meeting where [Cummings] expressed his concern about certain words that [Cummings] believed were inappropriate that had been used by some [Loco Pez] employees who worked with [Cummings] in the kitchen of [Loco Pez]. After the meeting between [Cummings] and [the head chef], [the head chef] advised [Loco Pez] employees who worked with [Cummings] in the kitchen of [Loco Pez] to cease using any words that could be deemed as inappropriate.”

After the meeting, the head chef “advised [Loco Pez] managers of the substance of the meeting between [Cummings] and [the head chef] and [the head chef] also advised [Loco Pez] managers to monitor any inappropriate language by any [Loco Pez] employees who worked with [Mr. Cummings] in the kitchen of [Loco Pez],” according to the answer.

The restaurant also maintains that Loco Pez distributes an employee handbook.

“[Loco Pez] distributes an employee handbook to its employees which sets forth [Loco Pez’s] employment policies and procedures. However, [Loco Pez] is not aware if [Cummings] received a copy of the employee handbook.”

Cummings alleges Loco Pez “did not conspicuously post or disseminate a policy regarding non-discrimination.”

Loco Pez’s filing requests the dismissal of Cummings’ lawsuit and asserts that Cummings seeks “inappropriate” damages, and that he failed to “mitigate his alleged damages, if any.”

Moreover, the restaurant requests payment for “fees and costs” incurred due to the litigation.

The litigation is in the discovery phase. By presstime, U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle 3d hadn’t ruled on the request for dismissal.

Justin F. Robinette, an attorney for Cummings, issued this statement: “We believe the jury will see things differently on damages. LGBT people do not deserve to be harassed at work, and should not be pushed out of their jobs. Nothing about Loco Pez’s answer changes our course of action, and we look forward to Sebastian’s day in court.”

James L. Pearl, an attorney for Loco Pez, couldn’t be reached for comment.


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