A former barista at the Nolita outpost of vegan cafe the Butcher’s Daughter is alleging that restaurant co-founder David Ochoa Rodriguez sexually harassed her for two years, according to a new lawsuit filed in the Manhattan Supreme Court. The New York Post first reported on the lawsuit. While the lawsuit lists Rodriguez as a co-founder, the Butcher’s Daughter has disputed this claim, but cited the ongoing suit for not being able to share more information.
The harassment began in 2017, soon after the barista, Azara Mulder-Sagefka, was hired by Rodriguez to work at the Nolita location, she alleges in the lawsuit. Mulder-Sagefka was repeatedly subjected to crude sexual remarks and questions about her sex life by Rodriguez, his brother Sebastian Ochoa, and other staffers, she alleges in the lawsuit.
They also allegedly groped her “grabbing her waist, neck, and buttocks,” during the time that she worked at the restaurant, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit further details how the brothers reportedly only hired “pretty girls,” and engaged in cat calling and making statements like “I would fuck them,” once candidates had left the interview.
In one instance, Mulder-Sagefka alleges that Rodriguez used the pretext of a work meeting to invite her to a strip club, offered to buy her lap dances, and then proceeded to ask her how comfortable she was with “threesomes,” according to the lawsuit. When Mulder-Sagefka said she was leaving, Rodriguez reportedly threatened to fire her if she told anyone about what happened at the strip club, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit further states that Mulder-Sagefka reportedly told multiple staffers at the Los Angeles outpost of the restaurant about the harassment, but no action was taken. In March 2019, Mulder-Sagefka reportedly met with the other Butcher’s Daughter founder Heather Tierney to detail the alleged harassment that had taken place over the past two years.
Mulder-Sagefka reportedly met with Tierney five times over the course of two months, and the latter allegedly promised to “fix the workplace.” Yet, no changes were made, Mulder-Sagefka alleges in the lawsuit, and instead she was asked to take a leave of absence to “deal with the emotional distress.” When she asked to come back to work later that year, she was reportedly told she no longer had a job at the Butcher’s Daughter, according to the lawsuit.
Mulder-Sagefka is now suing Rodriguez and Tierney for alleged sexual harassment, fostering a hostile workplace environment, and for wrongful termination, and is seeking punitive damages. The Butcher’s Daughter did not immediately respond to a request for comment but Tierney told the Post that Rodriguez no longer worked at the restaurant and that she wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit at the moment.
UPDATE 8/16/20: This article has been updated to reflect the fact that the Butcher’s Daughter disputes Rodriguez’s position. Additionally, Tierney issued the following statement to Eater:
The Butcher’s Daughter does not and will not tolerate harassment of any kind. We proactively seek and foster diversity, inclusivity, respect, and integrity in our company and take immediate action if these values are compromised. David Ochoa, who was not a co-founder of our company, was employed by The Butcher’s Daughter for approximately six years and has not been with our company since March 2019. We have never and will never take retaliatory actions against our team. We have immense gratitude and deep respect for our employees and are taking every step to uncover facts about this situation and ensure that our team has an ethically sound and safe place to work.