Central Park restaurant sued for sexual, racial harassment

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 25, 2015 4:58 PM

By Daniel Wiessner

(Reuters) - A former maitre d' at a restaurant in New York City's Central Park claims in a lawsuit filed on Thursday that she was subjected to constant sexual harassment and racial discrimination and demoted after she complained.

The suit, filed in U.S. district court in Manhattan by Akira Smalls, alleges the manager at the Loeb Boathouse made a series of boastful and graphic sexual comments to her, including asking her whether she had any sexually transmitted diseases, and the restaurant's chef got her drunk in a bid to have sex with her.

A call to the restaurant for comment was not immediately returned.

The pricey restaurant, which opened in the 1950s, sits on the tip of the lake in the middle of Central Park, near its famous angel-topped Bethesda Fountain.

Smalls, who is black, also alleges the Greek owners of the restaurant favored employees of Greek descent over others for promotions, and that one of her supervisors asked her to change her hair so she would look less ethnic.

When she complained to the owners in 2013 about sexual comments by the manager, James Modena, she was told he would not be fired, according to the suit. As a result of her complaint, Smalls claims, she was demoted and her hours were cut.

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Smalls is seeking unspecified damages under state and federal discrimination laws.

The case is Smalls v. Central Park Boathouse LLC, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 1:15-cv-4973.

(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, N.Y.; Editing by Alan Crosby)