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Restaurant Sex Bias Case Settled

July 7, 2000

NEW YORK (AP) _ State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer announced a settlement Thursday of a sex discrimination lawsuit filed against the owners of the Rainbow Room and other upscale Manhattan restaurants.

The lawsuit centered on two restaurants owned by the Cipriani family, Harry Cipriani on the Upper East Side, and Downtown in Soho. The businesses admittedly hired only men for lucrative positions as waiters and other floor staff.

To settle the case, Spitzer said, owners of the Cipriani family restaurants signed a consent decree calling for at least 50 percent of new hires at the two eateries to be women over the next three years.

The owners have also agreed to change the way they recruit serving staff. Instead of the typical word-of-mouth advertising, they must place newspaper ads that specifically encourage men and women to apply.

Spitzer said he sued Harry Cipriani and Downtown because his office received complaints about them and ``it’s been known for years that this was going on at the more expensive restaurants, but nothing had been done.″

In announcing the settlement, Spitzer released transcripts of telephone conversations with two female applicants who were told at Cipriani Wall Street that they simply did not hire women as servers.

``I was just calling to see ... Is there any way you might reconsider your policy on that? I’m really an excellent waitress,″ the caller said.

``I’m sure you are. I’m sure you are,″ replies Lucio Vanon, the manager of the two restaurants. ``Not really. We don’t have any girls in any of our places, you see.″

Spitzer said those statements ``are about as direct an admission of liability as you’ll ever find.″

Cipriani’s lawyer, Christy Reuter, said her client denied doing anything wrong but was pleased with the settlement. She said the restaurant had begun hiring women before the settlement was reached.

Including the Rainbow Room in Rockefeller Center, the Ciprianis own four restaurants in New York City with a fifth scheduled to open at Grand Central Terminal in October. The family also owns bar-restaurants in Europe, including Harry’s Bar in Venice.

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