Food News

Schnebly Winery Waitress Says She Was Fired After Reporting Sexual Assault

Schnebly Redland's Winery
Schnebly Redland's Winery Photo by Adam Hendel
When a waitress began working at Schnebly Redland's Winery in June 2016, she says the male employees took notice. At work, two of them would grab and touch her, she claims, describing the sexual acts they wanted to do with her. But when the waitress reported the behavior to management, she says her complaints were ignored.

Those allegations — and another, involving a workplace rape less than a year later — are part of a new lawsuit against the winery filed in federal court last month. New Times is not naming the plaintiff because she claims to be a victim of sexual assault.

But an attorney representing the winery, Gary Isaacs, dismisses her allegations, saying the harassment and assault "never happened."

"There's no evidence anything she’s claiming happened," he says. "There’s no witness we talked to who came close to backing up anything she had to say."

According to the lawsuit, the woman complained about the harassment to the owners — Peter Schnebly and his son Cody Schnebly — as well as a head server. But she says all three made excuses for the two employees, identified as Rudy and Dean, and said they were "just joking around" and "didn't mean anything by it." As a result of her complaints, the woman says she was labeled a "troublemaker."

Months later, in December, the woman says she had another serious incident at work where a male manager grabbed her by the shoulders and physically shook her. She says that she again reported the incident to the owners but that they told her they would write a report only if she agreed to recant her previous complaints about harassment.

The woman says the situation escalated in April 2017 when Rudy, one of the men who had harassed her, threw her against a wall at work, pinned her there, and sexually assaulted her while making "sexually threatening statements." The attack left her with bruises and a cut on her back from a nail protruding from the wall.

The waitress reported the assault; three days later, she was fired, according to the lawsuit. The woman was told she was terminated because business was "slow," but she says the winery filled her position a few days later.

"[Schnebly Redland's Winery] allowed persistent and pervasive sexual discrimination and harassment to occur within the workplace, refusing to stop the situations or address them at all, ultimately ending with [the woman's] termination," the lawsuit says.

The suit also mentions a second unnamed female waitress who was fired the same day after making similar complaints about workplace sexual harassment, though it does not appear she or any other employees have filed lawsuits against the winery.

Isaacs tells New Times the woman's complaint is without merit, calling the description of the sexual assault "just a fairy tale." As to her motivations, he says he believes the woman is simply angling for cash from a former employer.

"It's a money grab based on something there is no evidence that occurred," he says.

The woman's attorney, Ed Rosenberg, declined to comment further on the suit. It's unclear if any criminal charges were pressed against the alleged assailant.

The waitress' lawsuit asks for back pay, reinstatement, damages for emotional suffering, and an order requiring the winery to adopt a sexual harassment policy. As with all discrimination suits, her complaint passed through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which granted her the right to sue in late January.
KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jessica Lipscomb is news editor of Miami New Times and an enthusiastic Florida Woman. Born and raised in Orlando, she has been a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists.
Contact: Jessica Lipscomb