A gay waiter in Long Island claims he was physically and verbally assaulted by his employer over his choice of shoes.
Emilio Branchinelli, the owner of Emilio’s Pizzeria & Ristorante, observed his employee Michael Abenante sporting black Converse sneakers on November 15, 2019.
Taking issue with the accessories, Branchinelli told Abenante, an employee since 2017, to get new shoes over break or “find another fucking job,” according to a complaint filed Friday in a Brooklyn federal court, reports the New York Post.
Abenante returned to the Commack, N.Y., eatery that day with a new pair of shoes — but the choice only further outraged the owner. “You look like a fucking homo mountain climber, are you fucking stupid?” Branchinelli allegedly said, according to the complaint. “You and your cunt mother both should’ve died when she pushed you out!”
The complaint claims that Branchinelli then chased Abenante around the restaurant, kicked him in the lower back, and hit him in the face so hard a tooth flew out. “Fucking faggot, I’ll murder you!” Branchinelli yelled during the assault, according to the suit.
The complaint, written by Abenante's attorney John Luke Jr., claimed the gay waiter had faced a discriminatory workplace from the start. Members of the kitchen staff called him “culero,” an antigay Spanish slur, whistled at him, and slapped his butt. Complaints to management allegedly fell on deaf ears.
Claiming civil rights violations and discrimination, Abenante is now suing his former workplace for punitive and non-punitive damages and civil battery.
Abenante is joined in his lawsuit by fellow former employee Sabrina Kozminsky, a waitress who alleges sexual discrimination. Kozminsky claimed she was groped by kitchen staff in a “sexually charged hostile work environment” that included comments like "I wanna put a baby inside you."
The harassment continued even after Kozminsky complained to Lena Branchinelli, her supervisor and the owner's daughter, the complaint said. She eventually quit due to the alleged abuse.