Hooters may be best known for its buxom waitresses and famous wings but two former male employees have filed a lawsuit alleging their male boss sexually harassed them for years.
P.J. Cagnina and Scott Peterson filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court alleging multiple instances of verbal and physical harassment, reports CBS Los Angeles. Cagnina and Peterson both worked as managers at multiple Hooters locations in the Los Angeles area including downtown, Costa Mesa, and Hollywood. Both the restaurant and their former manager, Rick Leukert, are named in the suit, which is seeking unspecified damages.
“Repeated, intense acts which were intended to cause mental harm to the plaintiffs, to humiliate them, to undermine them,” Jason Oliver, an attorney representing both Peterson and Cagnina, told CBS.
In one instance cited in the lawsuit, Leukert is accused of throwing one of the men “down to the parking lot ground” and forcing him to engage in a simulated sex act. The men also claim their former boss would touch their “buttocks when standing behind them.”
The defendant is also accused of "continually tried getting Mr. Cagnina to go skinny dipping with [subordinate] female employees," even after repeated refusals.
In addition to allegations of physical abuse, the suit claims when Cagnina was being celebrated a new location general manager, Leukert told his assistant, in front of others, to write an unflattering name, "PGay," on the plaintiff's trophy instead of his actual name, reports NBC Los Angeles. The defendant allegedly referred to Cagnina often as "cagina" because it rhymed with "vagina," the suit states.
Oliver says that his clients confronted their boss and that Hooters investigated Leukert and he was fired in a few months with no explanation.
But soon after his boss left, Peterson was also let go from the chain. Oliver argues his client’s firing was in retaliation for speaking out.
“When they stood up to him, they paid the price. They were punished even more in terms of other types of mistreatment,” said the attorney.
Hooters released a statement regarding the incident: “This matter involves a franchised location and its employees in California. We have no independent knowledge of the facts and are therefore unable to comment.”
Cagnina and Peterson are no longer employed by Hooters. Their attorney says the suit isn’t just about compensation but that his clients want to put an end to this type of workplace harassment.