Monday, February 14, 2011
Michelin Restaurant Yauatcha Pays £21k To Waiter Who Had Nipple Tweaked
I am continually flabbergasted by what goes on in restaurants. I’ve seen and heard about things in kitchens that would never be accepted in any other trade. Sexual abuse, racism of the vilest kind, knife fights with saucepan lids used as shields et al.
Why does the catering trade so openly flout employees’ rights, whether it is forcing chefs to work 18-hour days in some form of indentured servitude or turning a blind eye to sexual harassment? Is it the hours, theatre and mad pace that warps people’s minds, or does it just attract staff who find this sort of behaviour acceptable?
Compare this to other work places and kitchens appear stuck in the stone ages. Of course, you can take political correctness too far. A friend of mine, who works for a children’s charity, was recently reprimanded for swearing in the office – and all he said was “bloody bollocks” loudly on the phone. This wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow in a restaurant – whether it was in a kitchen or front-of-house.
Sure, some restaurants have cracked down hard on lewd or aggressive behaviour. Heston Blumenthal, for instance, disciplines anyone who shouts at other staff members – something that is almost a pre-requisite in most kitchens.
But clearly other Michelin-starred restaurants are years behind. The latest is Yauatcha Chinese restaurant in London, which has had to pay a gay waiter who had his nipples tweaked £21,500 in damages.
Vincent Ma won his discrimination claim after an employment tribunal heard how two male managers simulated sex acts and fondled each other in front of him, and sang Madonna's 'Like a Virgin' to him.
When a customer pinched his nipple as he served, his boss asked him: “Did you like it?”
Hakkasan Limited, which owns the celebrity-magnet dim sum teahouse, was told to pay the 31-year-old £21,571 for lost earnings and injury to feelings.
Mr Ma, who joined Yauatcha in October 2009, told the Daily Mail after the hearing: “I am delighted to have won but the money cannot compensate me for the harassment and humiliation I experienced at work.
“It has been a long process from raising my claim to the main tribunal hearing and remedy hearing and my health has suffered a lot.
“Hakkasan will pay the money to me and for them it will solve the problem. But I do not think they have learnt any lesson from what happened to me.”
It is the whole industry that needs to learn a lesson – and perhaps it should start by not turning a blind eye to the bullies and sex pests.