Amid sexual harassment allegations, former employees of Boot & Shoe Service, Pizzaiolo, and Penrose are demanding that owner Charlie Hallowell immediately divest from his Oakland restaurant group.
Nine former employees held a press conference with their attorney Mika Hilaire this morning to further discuss their experiences working for Hallowell. They described a work environment rife with sexualization and fear.
“Employees need to feel safe and know they have someone with whom to discuss issues of abuse in their workplace,” said former employee Sydni Skorich. “In Charlie’s restaurant, to survive was to avoid him.”
Skorich and others stated they felt compelled to speak out in the hopes of creating long-term change in the industry.
“There have been attempts to bully and smear us but we will not be intimidated,” said former employee Jessica Moncada.
Hilaire, who represents roughly a dozen women, outlined their list of demands. They want Hallowell to completely divest from the company — even though he’s stepped away from day-to-day operations and doesn’t collect a paycheck, he’s still a primary stakeholder. They want new policies that “have teeth,” including implementing an anonymous hotline for employees to report harassment. Hilaire also said the company should provide counseling to employees who experienced harassment as well as neutral job references for those looking to work elsewhere.
At this point, Hilaire said that the restaurant group’s response, which includes hiring an investigator, bringing on a human resources professional, and updating the employee manual, has not been enough. If Hallowell does not meet these demands, Hilaire said she and her clients will discuss a way to move forward and that she can't discuss legal strategy.
“We have a right to fair treatment,” said former employee Molly Surbridge. “We have a right to the opportunity to thrive in healthy work environments that allow us to do the work that we love with dignity.”