AceShowbiz - Married celebrity chef John Besh's Besh Restaurant Group, which includes 12 critically-acclaimed eateries, has been accused of fostering sexual harassment. The Times-Picayune (via Nola.com) reported 25 current and former Besh Group employees revealed that they were victims of sexual harassment while working at BRG or the organization's restaurants.
The outlet reported that many women, 9 of whom agreed to have their names published, described BRG as a company where "several male co-workers and bosses touched female employees without consent, made suggestive comments about their appearance and-in a few cases-tried to leverage positions of authority for sex." They further said that they were warned by female colleagues to beware of "handsy" male supervisor and alleged that those who complained would be "berated, ostracized or ignored."
A former Domenica waitress, who asked to remain anonymous, claimed that she complained about being sexually harassed by a male colleague during her time working at the restaurant. The former employee alleged that the man made sexual comments as well as showed her inappropriate photos.
"He would say, 'Hey, you want to see a picture of a baby's arm?' And he'd show you and it would be his penis," the woman said. The woman, who quit Domenica just before her first child was born in 2015, said the same man repeatedly asked for her breast milk "because he wanted to drink it."
The allegations come after two separate complaints had been filed against BRG, accusing the company of sexual discrimination and retaliation, since December with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by Lindsey Reynolds, the company's social media manager for six months, and by another former employee.
The former employee alleged in the complaint that Besh "continued to attempt to coerce (her) to submit to his sexual overtures" during a months-long sexual relationship. She also claimed that she faced "retaliation" by some BRG employees when she attempted to end her relationship with Besh.
Speaking to PEOPLE, the TV personality, who appeared on shows such as "Top Chef" and "Iron Chef America", addressed the accusations, saying, "Two years ago, I deeply hurt those I love by thoughtlessly engaging in a consensual relationship with one member of my team. Since then I have been seeking to rebuild my marriage and come to terms with my reckless actions given the profound love I have for my wife, my boys and my Catholic faith."
The 49-year-old added, "I also regret any harm this may have caused to my second family at the restaurant group, and sincerely apologize to anyone past and present who has worked for me who found my behavior as unacceptable as I do."
"I alone am entirely responsible for my moral failings. This is not the way the head of a company like ours should have acted, let alone a husband and father. But it should not taint our incredible team of more than 1,000 employees, nor undermine our unyielding commitment to treating everyone with respect and dignity, regardless of gender, race, age and sexual preference," he said.
Raymond Landry, General Counsel of the Besh Restaurant Group, said in a separate statement, "We have learned recently that a number of women in our company feel that we have not had a clear mechanism in place to allow them to voice concerns about receiving the respect they deserve on the job."
"I want to assure all of our employees that if even a single person feels this way, it is one person too many and that ends now," he went on saying. "While we've had a complaint procedure in place that complies with all existing laws, we now recognize that, as a practical matter, we needed to do more than what the law requires and we have revamped our training, education and procedures accordingly."
"Now that we have learned of these concerns, we believe going forward that everyone at our company will be fully aware of the clear procedures that are now in place to safeguard against anyone feeling that his or her concerns will not be heard and addressed free from retaliation," Landry concluded.