Gentrified Business The York Bar Facing Sexual Harassment and Racial Discrimination Lawsuit

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by Mando Medina

   The small Northeast LA (NELA) community of Highland Park is standing up to gentrification and the displacement of its residents and longtime businesses. York Boulevard itself has become ground zero for gentrification in Highland Park, with big cash offers turning many family-owned businesses into yoga studios, art studios, bars and coffee shops, mostly, which cater to the newcomers moving to LA for the warm weather. Incidents of racism and discrimination by newcomers have abound for years now. The most recent example of this is a lawsuit filed against The York Project LLC, and its flagship watering hole "The York Bar." Formerly named The Dragon, The York was one of the first locations to fall to the newcomers.

   Brenda Perez is a former employee of The York, and she has filed a lawsuit in Case No. BC 604740, Perez v THE YORK PROJECT LLC, for violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (”FEHA”). Her lawsuit is based on alleged sexual harassment, racial harassment, discrimination based on race, gender and disability and/or perceived disability, retaliation, failure to prevent, failure to investigate and correct, among a myriad of other alleged violations of the California Government Code.

   Ms. Perez claims the defendants, one of whom is a Mr. Patrick Thomas (aka Patrick Duniven), the assistant general manager of The York, engaged in sexual harassment against her and other female employees, creating a hostile, vulgar and offensive work environment in violation of the law. Thomas’ alleged outrageous sexual harassment included inappropriate and, according to Ms. Perez, "repulsive" sexual and gender-biased comments about females’ body parts. Ms. Perez alleges Mr. Thomas said, “Show me your nipples,” and forced the lawsuit plaintiff to watch a video of him having sexual relations with another woman. Thomas also allegedly engaged in physical sexual battery and assault, such as by grabbing and slapping plaintiff on the buttocks. According to the lawsuit, The York’s management was fully aware of Thomas’ harassment, sexual battery and assault, but failed to take corrective action to stop the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) violations. Instead, as the plaintiff contends, management ratified, condoned and permitted Thomas’ harassment against plaintiff and other female employees to continue.

   One such incident, according to Ms. Perez in a recent interview, involved former manager Gerry Ng, who allegedly referred to an upcoming Cinco de Mayo celebration as “Douche Bag Night.” Spanish-speaking customers were allegedly made fun of. "There were several occasions when Latinos were ignored and not served," Perez says. The lawsuit states that Ms. Perez was called a “Mexican Bitch,” an allegation which Ms. Perez continued to support in her interview with LA1 News.

   Latino residents have since told stories that they were ignored and never served when they visited The York Bar. San Fernando Valley/NELA National Organization for Women (NOW) and California League of Latinos And Chicanos (CLLC) members will host a community meeting this Sunday to discuss the lawsuit. During the meeting a demonstration will be organized and a larger campaign against sexual harassment will be planned.

   The meeting will take place this Sunday, February 26, from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at 114 N Avenue 58, Los Angeles, CA, 90042

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