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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 5, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 23
Bad Gays: Hotel owners who hosted Ted Cruz fundraiser are sued by employees
Section One
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Bad Gays: Hotel owners who hosted Ted Cruz fundraiser are sued by employees

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Gay New York City hotel owners Ian Reisner and Mati Weiderpass - who were forced into a public apology after hosting a fundraiser for anti-Gay Republican Ted Cruz - are in trouble again.

Four employees of their 'Out NYC' hotel are now suing them for wage theft and discrimination. The plaintiffs, James Stress, Paul Shreve, Donald Shorter, and Jonathan Taylor are current and former employees of KTCHN restaurant and XL Nightclub, part of Out NYC.

All four charge that KTCHN and XL failed to pay for overtime work and withheld part of their tips, which constitute violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act as well as New York City and state law.

Shorter and Stress also charge discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, by establishments that are owned by and cater to LGBT people.

On the issue of wage theft, the suit alleges that the 'Defendants operated various schemes to cheat its service employees out of their properly earned wages.'

According to the suit, KTCHN required that servers pool their cash tips, and the restaurant disbursed them under a point system. Servers received 10 points, bus workers five, and food runners six points for every hour worked.

But credit card tips were not distributed under the same system. According to the suit, 'KTCHN's management unlawfully pooled and distributed the accumulated credit card tips from each shift to KTCHN wait staff solely at the discretion of the on-duty KTCHN manager.'

The plaintiffs also claim they did not receive time-and-a-half overtime when their work exceeded 40 hours a week.

'As alleged in the Complaint in great detail, and as the evidence will demonstrate, KTCHN grossly violated several statutes meant to protect workers in New York City, and around the country, from employer abuse,' the plaintiffs' lawyers said in a statement to the Advocate.

'Indeed, KTCHN cheated our clients out of minimum wage and overtime pay, effectively stealing their wages, and to top it off, treated them like second class citizens due to their sexual orientation and gender identities. That sort of conduct is simply unacceptable, and we look forward to presenting this case to a jury.'

On the discrimination charge, plaintiffs Shorter and Stress say that they were subjected 'to a hostile work environment' and 'disparate treatment' that led 'to their constructive discharge.'

The two worked as servers at KTCHN, and claim they were the only two 'men working at KTCHN who outwardly presented as feminine at work and who did not adhere to masculine stereotypes.'

The discrimination against them began when a KTCHN manager, Anton Washington, implemented a new policy on attire and grooming. Among other requirements, the new policy stated that male employees must 'keep excessive makeup and nail polish to a minimum...The only acceptable time for gentlemen to wear makeup or nail polish will be for Sunday Brunch during Haus of Mimosa.'

This policy was not extended to women, plaintiffs say. The suit alleges the workplace attire policy is 'vile and explicitly unlawful,' claiming it specifically targeted Shorter and Stress.

When Shorter 'objected to this hateful policy, 'Defendants reprimanded and humiliated him and refused to alter the policy or make an exception,' the suit states.

Working under these conditions caused Shorter and Stress to suffer 'severe mental anguish and emotional distress, including, but not limited to, depression, humiliation, embarrassment, stress and anxiety, loss of self-esteem and self-confidence, and emotional pain and suffering,' according to the complaint.

The suit aims 'to recover from Defendants unpaid minimum wage, overtime compensation, and liquidated damages' for all plaintiffs.

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