Employees and supervisors at a Scottsdale wine bar taunted two coworkers who were perceived to be gay with repeated homophobic slurs and assaults, a federal complaint states.
Both men were subjected to harassment for more than a year at 5th and Wine in downtown Scottsdale, according to the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, which filed the complaint on Friday.
When the general manager learned that one man had contacted an attorney and planned to file an official complaint, he was fired, the EEOC said in a news release.
"Federal law protects against all forms of discrimination based on sex," said Mary Jo O'Neill, EEOC Phoenix district office regional attorney, in a written statement about the case. "Employers cannot allow harassment based on sexual orientation, whether actual or perceived."
One of the alleged victims, Wyatt, is gay. The other, Jared, was perceived to be gay because of his association with Wyatt, the EEOC complaint states.
Although their full names are listed in federal court documents obtained by New Times, only their first names will be used in this article to protect their privacy.
The "demeaning and derogatory comments and gestures" began after the men were hired as servers in 2012 and continued through 2013.
Some of the many allegations in the complaint include:
• Scott Yanni, the restaurant and wine bar's general manager, called Wyatt a "fag" on two or three occasions.
• Chef Josh Yazzi reportedly told Wyatt, after he failed to catch a lemon thrown to him, "I guess we know now that Wyatt isn't a catcher, at least not in the kitchen." Both Yazzi and Yanni then laughed.
• A couple of days later, Yazzi told another employee, "Remember, though, Wyatt doesn't catch."
• An employee named Jerry Amster repeatedly harassed Wyatt. He often made "kissing noises" and whistled whenever Wyatt walked in.
"Wyatt only likes big penises; he doesn't like Mexican because they are too small," Amster reportedly told Wyatt.
• On two occasions, Amster ran "his fingernails down [Wyatt's] spine," making him feel uncomfortable."
• Amster and his sister "blocked [Wyatt] in a corner" while Amster asked him, "Are you a fucking racist? Is that why you don't want to have sex with me? Or are you cheating on me?"
• An employee identified only as "Richie" in the complaint looked at Wyatt while telling him, "A blow job makes your whole day, but anal sex makes your hole weak."
• Jared's coworkers repeatedly called him "strawberry shortcake," "faggot," and "ginger snap."
• Employees told Jared "you make me so hard," that he was "beautiful," or that he "would be a really beautiful woman."
• Employees often winked or whistled at Jared, and made kissing sounds.
• Jared heard harassing comments directed toward him, including, "I like your butt and I would like to fuck it."
• Jared protested his treatment after being hired, telling fellow employees he wasn't gay. They responded, "It's okay, we know you're gay."
• Yanni once told Jared he had "nice hair" and asked him if he had given Wyatt "head" before coming to work.
The worst allegations in the complaint detail how Jared was repeatedly subjected to touching and hitting by his coworkers.
They "touched him in the buttocks and penis and one of his coworkers hit him in the penis," the complaint states.
Jared "loudly announced in the kitchen that he would 'punch the next person who touches my dick or my ass' but rather than alleviating the problem, a coworker named Juan began physically assaulting him by twisting and pinching [Jared's] arms so severely that he caused bruises. Juan thought it was funny and continued to assault [Jared] regularly. Juan pinched and twisted [Jared's] skin until [Jared] screamed loudly. The assaults resulted in many dark bruises on [Jared's] skin."
The abuse and assaults were done "in such an open manner" at 5th and Wine that the bar's operators either knew or should have known what was going on, the EEOC says in the complaint.
Jared and Wyatt reported the abuse to their supervisors to little avail. Sometimes, the harassment would stop only to restart again in a few days.
A supervisor took away Wyatt's tables after he complained, causing him to take in less money in tips.
The same supervisor told Jared not to complain, but Jared did complain to Yanni.
"However, Yanni was nonchalant about the complaints," the court records show. "He refused to document any of [Jared's] complaints even though [Jared] explicitly asked him to write down his complaints."
Wyatt told coworkers he'd contacted an attorney and was planning on filing discrimination charges against 5th and Wine.
Word spread, and soon after, Yanni sent an e-mail to the bar's staff, saying that an "attitude" problem among employees was causing customer complaints.
The day after Yanni sent the e-mail, on March 21, 2013, Yanni and Yazzi told Wyatt he was fired.
"Yanni told [Wyatt] he should consider a career change," the complaint states.
Jared quit a few months later. He couldn't be reached.
Yanni didn't return a message left for him on Monday.
Wyatt told New Times that Yanni, as general manager, was the most responsible for what happened because he should have stopped the harassment.
He also feels that his case could have a wide impact.
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"I feel like this could set a very important precedent for everybody," Wyatt said. "It's a case where me and other people were targeted for being kind of different. We were abused, and it was terrible."
Wyatt said he drank heavily to deal with the abuse when it occurred, ending up with a DUI and other problems. He's since quit drinking. (Wyatt later clarified that he quit drinking about three months before being fired from 5th and Wine.)
He believes that Jared has moved back to his home state of Ohio, but said he'd a pass on a message seeking comment.
Hearings in the case have yet to be scheduled.