A former server at Jewel has sued the Melville restaurant and its one-time executive chef, alleging she was sexually harassed and faced retaliation after she complained.
Faith Sunshine Cardino, 42, a Suffolk resident who worked at the high-profile restaurant, said in the lawsuit, filed Dec. 16 in U.S. District Court in Central Islip, that then-executive chef Michael Ross repeatedly touched her inappropriately and that when she complained to management she was called a “liar” and a “drug addict” and eventually fired.
Ross said he was surprised by the allegations.
“It is kind of shocking that it has got to this level,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “It went from one solitary complaint that was investigated [in-house] and found to be unfounded.”
Ross said he didn’t know about the lawsuit until receiving a call from a reporter Wednesday. But the plaintiffs’ lawyers, of the Manhattan law firm Wigdor LLP, said that Ross was served with the lawsuit.
In addition to Ross and Jewel, the lawsuit names Tom Schaudel, a prominent local restaurateur and chef who opened Jewel in 2011 and whom the lawsuit identifies as its owner, operator and chef. It also names Rubie’s Costume Co., a Richmond Hill, Queens-based company that the lawsuit says also owns and operates Jewel and has offices at the Rubie Corporate Plaza building on Route 110, where Jewel is located.
Also named are Rubie’s chief financial officer, Joe Soccodato, and Jewel manager Ann May.
Schaudel and May referred questions to their attorney, Kevin Schlosser, a partner at Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein in Garden City. Soccodato, also represented by Schlosser, was unavailable for comment.
“The restaurant respects all its employees and follows the law, and just because outrageous allegations are made in the lawsuit does not mean that they are true,” said Schlosser, who also represents Jewel and Rubie’s. “The restaurant is confident that once all of the evidence is presented and considered, these claims will be dismissed.”
Cardino worked at the restaurant from October 2014 to Feb. 10, 2016. The lawsuit says that from the start Ross began calling her “hot” and “gorgeous.” He worked at the restaurant from September 2011 to September 2016, the suit says.
The harassment reached “an unbearable point” on Dec. 17, 2015, when Ross grabbed Cardino from behind as she carried 20 heavy plates as part of a buffet setup, the lawsuit says.
After she complained she said her hours were cut and May, the manager, instructed other employees not to ask Cardino to cover any shifts for them. While in the middle of her shift in mid-January 2016 she said she was pulled into a meeting that included Schaudel and May, the suit says. She said Schaudel called her a “liar” and a “drug addict.” Rubie’s CFO Soccodato later accused her of making up the allegations, the lawsuit says. She was terminated on Feb. 10, 2016.
Attorney Larry Pearson, one of the Wigdor lawyers representing Cardino, declined to say how much the lawsuit was seeking in damages.