The two men, Paul "PJ" Cagnina and Scott Peterson charge that they were repeatedly sexually harassed by their boss, Rick Leukert, during their years of employment at Hooters in Los Angeles and Orange Counties and they are suing both the boss and the restaurant. Both Cagnina and Peterson claim that retaliation followed their complaints about harassment and Peterson reports being fired as a result. It is not clear whether Cagnina is still employed by the company.
The claims of sexual harassment are many and varied, allegedly taking place over a number of years. The harassment charges include the following:
- Leukert threw Cagnina onto the parking lot and engaged in a simulated sex act with him while others watched
- Leukert continually attempted to get Cagnina to go skinny dipping with female employees who were the plaintiff's subordinates, although Cagnina repeatedly refused
- Leukert took the cell phone of a female Hooters general manager whom Cagnina was dating and viewed "intimate photos" of the plaintiff on the device
- Leukert repeatedly referred to both male plaintiffs by demeaning, sexualized names
- When Cagnina was being honored as a new general manager, Leukert told his assistant (loudly) to write the name "PGAY" on the plaintiff's trophy instead of his real name
- Leukert referred to Cagnina as "cagina" because it rhymed with vagina
- Leukert opened an executive meeting by asking Cagnina if he had impregnated any Hooters' girls lately, suggesting Cagnina was the father of an expectant company employee's baby
- Leukert repeatedly touched Peterson inappropriately and spoke of him in a sexually demeaning manner during general managers' meetings
- Leukert sent Peterson photos of a female co-worker with whom he claimed to have had intimate relations and told him about another female employee with whom he claimed to have had a 2-year affair
The lawsuit was filed last week in Los Angeles Superior Court. The plaintiffs seek unspecified damages and a court order directing Hooters to stop allowing sexual harassment and retaliation in the workplace. Neither the plaintiffs' attorney nor a Hooters' spokesperson would comment on the pending litigation.
If you are experiencing sexual or any other type of harassment at the workplace, or if you have been retaliated against for complaining about such harassment, you should contact an experienced employment attorney to explore your legal options.