A former busboy at The Purple Pig — an acclaimed restaurant in the middle of tourist-heavy Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago — claims restaurant employees routinely harassed him on the job. In a complaint filed Thursday with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Rodrigo Soto alleges that two male coworkers would regularly grab him, hurl homophobic slurs at him, show him pornography, and hit on him. He alleges that supervisors ignored his complaints about his coworkers’ behavior.
Soto, 34 — flanked by his attorney — held a news conference on Wednesday announcing the complaint. The alleged harassment happened over a three-month period this year from February to May.
Soto says that when he relayed the allegations to a restaurant floor supervisor in mid-March, the supervisor advised Soto “to be professional and to just ignore it,” according to the complaint. Soto claimed he told a second manager in April, and she told him she’d try to address the harassment. But to Soto’s knowledge, nothing happened. He left his job in May.
Soto is receiving support from Raise the Floor, a Chicago group that provides legal assistance to low-wage workers. That’s why the news conference was also conducted in Spanish, as the group regularly works to empower Hispanic restaurant employees in the workplace.
The restaurant responded with a widely distributed statement mentioning a zero-tolerance policy for harassment and discrimination. It added that employees have a system to report incidents and that they “take all complaints seriously” while throughly and promptly investigating them. The restaurant also has an employee handbook with policy detailing workplace expectations, according to the statement.
Back in 2016, the restaurant was involved in another legal battle with a former owner involving allegations of sexual misconduct. The parties involved reached a confidential settlement. The Purple Pig’s chef/co-owner, Jimmy Bannos Jr., was not mentioned in this most recent complaint. He’s well known in Chicago as a vendor at Soldier Field during Bears games and he recently opened a spin-off, Piggie Smalls, inside a new food hall downtown. Last year, People named him one of the magazine’s sexiest male chefs in the country. His father, Jimmy Bannos, opened Chicago’s Heaven on Seven restaurants.
The EEOC has 10 days to notify Soto, his attorney, and The Purple Pig if the complaint merits further investigation.
- Worker Files Sexual Harassment Suit Against Purple Pig Restaurant [WBBM 780-AM]
- ¿Acoso sexual en popular restaurante de Chicago? [Telemundo Chicago]
- These Are the Sexiest Male Chefs in America 2017 [People]
- Messy Purple Pig Lawsuit Ends Quietly With Settlement [Eater Chicago]