POMONA, Calif.- Two former employees and one current worker at Romano’s Macaroni Grill, all females, are suing the owners of the restaurant chain, alleging that management did not do enough to stop two male supervisors at the now-closed Industry location from sexually harassing them.
Shanell Covarrubias, Maria Raya and Idalia Carrera brought the lawsuit Wednesday in Pomona Superior Court against Italian Restaurant Group LLC and two of their bosses, Cesar Pavias and Jose Castro. The complaint alleges sexual battery, hostile work environment harassment, gender discrimination, failure to prevent discrimination and harassment, retaliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent retention and supervision. The women seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
A Macaroni Grill representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
According to the complaint, Covarrubias transferred to the Irvine location, but plaintiffs Raya and Carrera were forced to resign in 2020 because they could not tolerate the work conditions at the eatery on Colima Road near the Puente Hills Mall. All worked as servers and bartenders.
Covarrrubias, 22, of Lake Elsinore began working at Macaroni Grill in April 2018 in what was her first job after leaving high school, the suit states. She worked full-time, including evenings and weekends, and hoped to save for college, according to the suit.
From 2018 until January 2020, Covarrubias endured repeated unwanted advances and sexual harassment by Pavias and Castro, but nothing was done after she complained to management, the suit states.
Carrera, 27, of Rowland Heights has a young child and was hired at the restaurant in September 2017, working weekends and day shifts in the hope of earning better tips, the suit states.
Raya, 38, of Whittier provides for four children and began working at the eatery in September 2014, the suit states.
When Carrera resisted Pavias’ alleged unwanted touching and remarks, he retaliated by slowing down her food orders, the suit states. Management told Pavias and Castro to stop their alleged harassment, but did not enforce the directive, so Carrera resigned in January 2020, according to the suit.
Raya was carrying a heavy food container in a walk-in refrigerator when Pavias allegedly walked up and put his hands down the front of her pants, the suit states. Raya immediately notified management, but their response was inadequate and so she quit in March 2020, the suit states.
“In sum, all three plaintiffs were hard working and dedicated Macaroni Grill employees who were harassed by … supervisors, including through sexual battery,” the suit alleges.
The plaintiffs came forward hoping that Macaroni Grill management would take appropriate remedial action, the suit states.
“Unfortunately, Macaroni Grill did not,” according to the suit, which further alleges the plaintiffs were denied promotions and had their shifts changed in retaliation for speaking out.
Macaroni Grill’s deficient responses added to plaintiffs’ harms and has “created and perpetuated a dangerous workplace,” the suit states.