A dishwasher at the Upper East Side’s Le Bilboquet is suing the upscale French restaurant — alleging that she endured repeated sexual harassment over the course of three years without help from management. Carmen Fontanez claims she became so stressed out she had to go to the hospital at one point for what felt like a heart attack, DNAinfo reports.
The harassment allegedly started in 2013, when a male coworker started asking her on dates and repeatedly grabbing her butt in front of managers, the suit claims. Fontanez says she told him to stop, but he responded that “he could touch whatever he wanted” because “‘nobody would believe [her] or care, if she reported him,” the suit reportedly says.
When Fontanez told management, a manager allegedly called her a bitch and said he had “‘better things to do’ than listen to her ‘whine’ about her coworkers.” Coworkers then also allegedly started calling her “bitch” instead of her name.
Fontanez says that because of this treatment, she stepped outside to cry and the sous chef and manager told her to “calm down” and “go back inside.” Another time the chef told her to “shut up” when she reported a line cook for insulting her physical appearance.
Because of these incidents, the suit reportedly says Fontanez “felt so victimized and helpless that she began to experience shocking pain and a tightening feeling in her chest,” which she mistook for a heart attack. A manager allegedly told her to “take some aspirin and get back to work.” Instead, the suit says she went to Lenox Hill Hospital where doctors said she had “dangerously high levels of stress” that had led to heart attack-like symptoms.
She returned to work and similar treatment continued, with the owner Philippe Delgrange at one point also allegedly dismissing her claims. Eventually, she decided to not return to work and was fired in June 2016, the suit reportedly says. She still says she suffers “severe migraine headaches and insomnia” as a result of the harassment.
The restaurant has not returned Eater’s request for comment.
This isn’t Le Bilboquet’s first brush with lawsuits. In March 2016, a former waiter sued for wage theft, but the lawsuit has since been dismissed. It’s been on the Upper East Side for more than 30 years and is known as an upscale bistro that’s popular with Europeans, celebrities, and business folk.