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Mike Isabella and Partners Sued for "Extraordinary'" Sexual Harrassment

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Looks like the movement has turned its focus to one of the DC area's most prolific, visible restaurateurs. 

Per the Washington Post, he and his company are being sued by a female former top member of the company who alleges she was repeatedly harassed.

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In the lawsuit, Caras alleges that Isabella and his partners called her “bitch” and “whore,” commented on the size of her buttocks and touched her without permission.

I'm inclined to believe Mike did some naughty things but they are extraordinarily mild compared to what other chefs have done.

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I'm not drawing any connection, but this seemed so strangely out-of-character to me, that I wouldn't rule it out.

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2 hours ago, dcs said:

Lawsuit accuses celebrity chef Mike Isabella of ‘extraordinary’ sexual harassment, by Danielle Paquette,  March 19, 2018, on washingtonpost.com. at 1:06 PM Email the author

Forgive me if this has been addressed in another thread, but when I read this, I was wondering if there was a connection between Jen Carroll's sudden departure and the allegations of a hostile work environment detailed in Ms. Caras' complaint.

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19 hours ago, Ericandblueboy said:

I'm inclined to believe Mike did some naughty things but they are extraordinarily mild compared to what other chefs have done.

I wonder why the severity of it matters when there is workplace harassment.. The guy sounds like such a creep.

I don't think people take the remarkable step of detailing this, keeping the texts, filing the lawsuits if it's not real. I just don't think it's worth the time and effort, because she's not going to get much out of this. Legal fees will be high, not going to much compensatory rewards, and she is going to 'blackballed' by a lot of men - even it is completely true.

Curious to see what happens, overall. And, I agree that the change to going back to being a chef - the timing is suspicious.  

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6 minutes ago, Simul Parikh said:

I wonder why the severity of it matters when there is workplace harassment. 

I'm mocking whoever wrote this is "extraordinary" sexual harassment.  Obviously "extraordinary" is intended to inflate the indignity of the victim thereby inflating the potential damage awarded.

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1 hour ago, Simul Parikh said:

And, I agree that the change to going back to being a chef - the timing is suspicious.  

After what I read in that article, he might be going back to being a bachelor. And he's also undoubtedly feeling some pressure because he just bought an expensive condominium, with great public fanfare.

1 hour ago, Ericandblueboy said:

I'm mocking whoever wrote this is "extraordinary" sexual harassment.  Obviously "extraordinary" is intended to inflate the indignity of the victim thereby inflating the potential damage awarded.

It's true that "extraordinary" is legal rhetoric - we'll need to see what Jennifer Carroll, Marjorie Meek-Bradley, Gina Dakkouni, and various other former and current female employees say (and rest assured, they will be subpoenaed if this goes to court). If Chloe Caras knew she'd be doing this, she would have been smart to keep a journal, and tell as many of her friends as possible about the details of what went on.

One problem with lining up female-after-female is that - if you've been inside banks 2,000 times in your life, and have robbed only 3 of them, that still makes you a bank robber.

(That's a variation on my standard response to people who say, "I've eaten just as many meals as you, Rockwell!" Response: "I've slept on mattresses almost every night of my life, and I don't know the first thing about mattresses." :))

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1 hour ago, Simul Parikh said:

I wonder why the severity of it matters when there is workplace harassment.. The guy sounds like such a creep.

I don't think people take the remarkable step of detailing this, keeping the texts, filing the lawsuits if it's not real. I just don't think it's worth the time and effort, because she's not going to get much out of this. Legal fees will be high, not going to much compensatory rewards, and she is going to 'blackballed' by a lot of men - even it is completely true.

Curious to see what happens, overall. And, I agree that the change to going back to being a chef - the timing is suspicious.  

The lawyer may have taken the case on contingency, I would guess that they did in this type of case with who is involved, but generally for an attorney to take a case on contingency, you have to have a bit of evidence and a decent shot.

As an attorney all these sexual harassment claims really raise for me a big ethical question- I really don't like that people are being tried in the court of public opinion, and I have seen cases with very horrible untrue allegations against employers as a revenge for terminating them.  At the same time, I know that sexual harassment exists, it often is a very hard case to prove, and I don't want it to continue to be pervasive.  But the lawyer in me also believes that there should be a fair trial before we assume someone is guilty.  I also think there are very often two sides to every story, but that doesn't mean that one person can't be a victim.  So while I appreciate the Me too movement and think there is a lot of behavior out there that needs to change, it is hard to see things like this playing out.

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2 minutes ago, ktmoomau said:

The lawyer may have taken the case on contingency, I would guess that they did in this type of case with who is involved, but generally for an attorney to take a case on contingency, you have to have a bit of evidence and a decent shot.

As an attorney all these sexual harassment claims really raise for me a big ethical question- I really don't like that people are being tried in the court of public opinion, and I have seen cases with very horrible untrue allegations against employers as a revenge for terminating them.  At the same time, I know that sexual harassment exists, it often is a very hard case to prove, and I don't want it to continue to be pervasive.  But the lawyer in me also believes that there should be a fair trial before we assume someone is guilty.  I also think there are very often two sides to every story, but that doesn't mean that one person can't be a victim.  So while I appreciate the Me too movement and think there is a lot of behavior out there that needs to change, it is hard to see things like this playing out.

I agree with everything you say, but will add that if - if - that attorney taking the case on contingency ever decides it's "hinky" (as Ericandblueboy would say), he'll dump her like a hot potato. 

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The response to the allegations, in part:.

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As with any case of former business partners and employees, there is much more to this story. Ms. Caras engaged in the very same banter, language, and horseplay that she now claims created a hostile working atmosphere. MIC has the same, if not many more, of these text messages, incidents, and write-ups of serious misconduct at work, to show that Ms. Caras’ portrayal as a victim is, again, untrue. More importantly, she is using much of the communication that occurred off-work to support her own case, all the while the many employees and women-leaders at MIC are ready to prove that none of this occurred at the restaurants, and further that Mr. Isabella’s restaurants are enjoyable places to work and dine for everyone.

I guess it doesn't count if done off-premises.

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2 hours ago, ktmoomau said:

As an attorney all these sexual harassment claims really raise for me a big ethical question- I really don't like that people are being tried in the court of public opinion, and I have seen cases with very horrible untrue allegations against employers as a revenge for terminating them.  At the same time, I know that sexual harassment exists, it often is a very hard case to prove, and I don't want it to continue to be pervasive.  But the lawyer in me also believes that there should be a fair trial before we assume someone is guilty.  I also think there are very often two sides to every story, but that doesn't mean that one person can't be a victim.  So while I appreciate the Me too movement and think there is a lot of behavior out there that needs to change, it is hard to see things like this playing out.

I think that false balance is dangerous in situations like these though.  If, for example, legitimate complaints of harassment are significantly more commonplace than untrue allegations for the purpose of revenge, then the latter doesn't deserve equal time or sympathy IMO.

Also, as mentioned in another thread recently, I think viewing harassment through a purely legal lens is similarly dangerous.  There is a ton of behavior in workplaces that needs to change and doesn't necessarily rise to the legal definition of harassment, but is nonetheless quite harmful to those who have to endure such treatment.  In those situations, the court of public opinion is the only meaningful avenue of recourse.

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2 minutes ago, ktmoomau said:

The lawyer may have taken the case on contingency, I would guess that they did in this type of case with who is involved, but generally for an attorney to take a case on contingency, you have to have a bit of evidence and a decent shot.

As an attorney all these sexual harassment claims really raise for me a big ethical question- I really don't like that people are being tried in the court of public opinion, and I have seen cases with very horrible untrue allegations against employers as a revenge for terminating them.  At the same time, I know that sexual harassment exists, it often is a very hard case to prove, and I don't want it to continue to be pervasive.  But the lawyer in me also believes that there should be a fair trial before we assume someone is guilty.  I also think there are very often two sides to every story, but that doesn't mean that one person can't be a victim.  So while I appreciate the Me too movement and think there is a lot of behavior out there that needs to change, it is hard to see things like this playing out.

Totally get that, and it makes it hard. And there are degrees and Eric is right - maybe many people in the industry have done far worse and this is truly not extraordinary. But sometimes during the revolution there are going to be people that are sacrificed for the greater good that aren't as bad as all the other true criminals. I'd have to say I'm okay with that :( 

I guess I lean towards generally believing this story, because there is a real lack of open support. When it's a nuisance/false claim, it seems to be that many, many people support the person being accused. There are so many restaurant workers that complain of this so frequently that it's hard to imagine when someone goes through this amount of effort that it's a false claim. 

Not quite the same, but when a doc gets sued once, you usually just think of it as a patient that is angry about an adverse outcome rather than malpractice. But, when many people sue the same doctor, you start making assumptions about their ability / skills. 

Seems in this case, many people are either supporting here, dissociating themselves from MI, or staying mum rather than voicing unwavering support... It's fair, though. I back track on saying he's a creep. I have no idea. And I actually like Graffiato.  

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Harassment in the workplace, sexual or not, is plain flat out wrong. I do not know anything about Mike Isabella or the businesses that he's involved with, so I have no idea if these allegations are true. But I know that pretty much every woman I know has been harassed to one degree or another. And most have been harassed more than I ever realized and it is not acceptable. Calling out people who treat others in this manner is our responsibility as humans on this planet IMHO.

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On 3/20/2018 at 11:17 AM, DonRocks said:

After what I read in that article, he might be going back to being a bachelor. And he's also undoubtedly feeling some pressure because he just bought an expensive condominium, with great public fanfare.

It's true that "extraordinary" is legal rhetoric - we'll need to see what Jennifer Carroll, Marjorie Meek-Bradley, Gina Dakkouni, and various other former and current female employees say (and rest assured, they will be subpoenaed if this goes to court). If Chloe Caras knew she'd be doing this, she would have been smart to keep a journal, and tell as many of her friends as possible about the details of what went on.

One problem with lining up female-after-female is that - if you've been inside banks 2,000 times in your life, and have robbed only 3 of them, that still makes you a bank robber.

(That's a variation on my standard response to people who say, "I've eaten just as many meals as you, Rockwell!" Response: "I've slept on mattresses almost every night of my life, and I don't know the first thing about mattresses." :))

Has Jose Andres commented yet?  He gave Isabella his start.

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Nats cut ties with Isabella.  That leaves 3 vacated stands to be filled before the home opener on April 5th.  This is where I agree with Katelin about the court of public opinion.  I get that the Nats don't want to appear to be supporting bad behavior and they certainly don't want to deal with a backlash, but this is a lawsuit that was just recently filed.

If there were some kind of credible evidence that a person or people working for the vendor locations at Nats Park had been abused, I might feel differently, but the way the ballpark locations are staffed is totally different. This is just a knee-jerk, trying to get in front of the story thing.

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Gossiping about girls' butts and baptizing cocktails after the globetrotting sexual somersaults of Beavis & Prostitutes is beyond or below the periphery of Michelin guide inspectors' humor and taste, but they are not crimes.  It is unfortunate that employees at the Nats' MIC concession stands are likely to be burdened with unemployment as a consequence of their employers' insufferable obnoxiousness and moral destitution.  Employees deserve a generous restitution package.

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18 hours ago, Poivrot Farci said:

Gossiping about girls' butts and baptizing cocktails after the globetrotting sexual somersaults of Beavis & Prostitutes is beyond or below the periphery of Michelin guide inspectors' humor and taste, but they are not crimes.  It is unfortunate that employees at the Nats' MIC concession stands are likely to be burdened with unemployment as a consequence of their employers' insufferable obnoxiousness and moral destitution.  Employees deserve a generous restitution package.

The stands will be replaced within the first couple months of the season in all likelihood, the Nationals aren't planning to leave the spaces fallow indefinitely.  This will have zero-to-neglible impact on the staffing numbers at Nats Park, Isabella probably has no control over that outside of a management/oversight position or two.  I would bet there is another concept in the wings the could be ramped up pretty rapidly.  After all, there was competition for these spaces in the first place and that is probably reviewed after every season.  Some runners up are going to get their chance, or they'll just slot in a Nats Dogs/Home Run Pizza.  Hopefully it's the former.

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On 3/20/2018 at 5:28 PM, silentbob said:

There is a ton of behavior in workplaces that needs to change and doesn't necessarily rise to the legal definition of harassment, but is nonetheless quite harmful to those who have to endure such treatment. 

18 hours ago, Poivrot Farci said:

Gossiping about girls' butts and baptizing cocktails after the globetrotting sexual somersaults of Beavis & Prostitutes is beyond or below the periphery of Michelin guide inspectors' humor and taste, but they are not crimes. 

The lawsuit alleges more than just gossiping about women's body parts and the naming of cocktails. I'm not a lawyer, but subjecting female employees to unwanted sexualized conversations, text messages, and an oversexed work environment is a good way to create a hostile work environment. Can you imagine a company deciding or thinking it is acceptable for the subject line of e-mails or the names of memos to be sex acts? 

Reminds me of a line I read earlier this week about the accusations about Michael Ferro, "There are some acts of misogyny and harassment that are just as much bout reminding women what they can and can't do than they are about sex."

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"Eater Will Remove Mike Isabella's Businesses from Its Restaurant Guides" by Jessica Sidman on washingtonian.com

Regarding what I'm going to do with our Dining Guides, we don't have this dilemma, as I have never recommended a single Mike Isabella restaurant other than G Sandwich, which is ranked in Italic. So, the restaurants are still listed and ranked alongside of McDonald's, Papa John's, etc., but you've never once heard me urge people to go anywhere other than G Sandwich, because, quite frankly, these restaurants just aren't that good, and never have been.

I'm afraid Eater has bitten off a larger problem than they can chew, because if-or-when they find out just who else has been active in such behavior, they aren't going to have very large restaurant guides.

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5 hours ago, DonRocks said:

"Eater Will Remove Mike Isabella's Businesses from Its Restaurant Guides" by Jessica Sidman on washingtonian.com...

...I'm afraid Eater has bitten off a larger problem than they can chew, because if-or-when they find out just who else has been active in such behavior, they aren't going to have very large restaurant guides.

That is an effective reactionary measure to stifle business and stick it to the employees who kind of rely on full seats to get paid, keep their jobs, build résumés.  Thankfully the moral sheriffs at Eater do not investigate who in restaurant management are drunk drivers, adulterers, tax cheats and scofflaws behind on child support.

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6 hours ago, Poivrot Farci said:

drunk drivers, adulterers, tax cheats and scofflaws behind on child support.

Yeah, this is kind of what I was hinting at - I know people in all four categories (but I will never, ever rat them out - that, I promise, because I know these things in strict confidence). If that makes me a shit, then so be it: My word is my bond, and I gave them my word.

It isn't just "the Chef"; it's the entire network of employees that suffer when you punish a business.

Yes, I get it: There are other opinions, equally valid. Have at it, [but as moderator, I'm telling you in advance that any personal attacks will be deleted.]

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Who could possibly have imagined that a guy who became famous for being a sexist jerk would be a sexist jerk? (In this, I mean to be criticizing not only the sexist jerk, but those who, for profit, enabled his rise from "just a jerk who's a good chef at somebody else's restaurant" to "celebrity with lots of restaurants".)  So, for instance, thanks so much, Eater, for distancing yourself after years of puffery.

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