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A Chef Resigns After Sexual Harassment Charges

TempAn investigation found 25 employees of Besh Restaurant Group claiming sexual harassment. BRG owns 14 restaurants, including Restaurant August in New Orleans and Johnny Sanchez in New Orleans and Baltimore.

The women describe a hostile working environment where "vulgar and offensive comments, aggressive unwelcomed touching, and sexual advances were condoned and sometimes even encouraged by managers and supervisors." Some charges were against John Besh, co-owner of the group.

When faced with the first complaint, Besh said it was "a consensual relationship with one member of my team." But additional women came forward, and it became more difficult for Besh to isolate the incident. BRG announced Besh's decision to resign. In an email to employees, CEO Shannon wrote, "John has decided to step down from all aspects of operations and to provide his full focus on his family."

Besh and BRG issued statements in response to the claims.

John Besh's statement:

"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. 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."

Statement from Raymond Landry, Besh Restaurant Group's general counsel:

"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.

"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."

Discussion:

  • Analyze Besh's response: the first attempt, his statement, and his decision to step down.
  • How well does Landry's statement for BRG address the situation? What, if anything, should the company do differently?