Exclusive Restaurants Agree To Hire Women In Service Roles

State Attorney General Spitzer said today that his office has reached a landmark settlement with one of New York's leading restaurants companies for unlawfully discriminating against women in hiring staff.

The settlement with the Cipriani restaurants is expected to be a model for ending long-standing discrimination in the hiring of waiters at exclusive restaurants.

"The settlement of this case will change the way the entire industry conducts business," Attorney General Spitzer said. "We are hoping to shatter the glass ceiling in the restaurant industry that prevents women from obtaining prestigious positions."

After an extensive investigation, the Attorney General filed a lawsuit in August of 1999 against Arrigo "Harry" Cipriani, Guiseppe Cipriani and their corporations for their express refusal to hire women in lucrative positions, such as servers, at both the Harry Cipriani and Downtown restaurants because of the company's philosophy to have "no girls on the floor."

By signing the Consent Decree, which will be in effect for at least three years, the Ciprianis have agreed to pursue hiring goals and workforce composition goals for women for both restaurants and to adopt an affirmative action plan to remedy past discrimination at those establishments. A monitor will be selected to evaluate whether the following requirements of the Decree are met:

  • At Harry Cipriani, at least 50-percent of the new hires for server positions over the next three years will be women, and women will represent at least 33.3% of the server workforce after three years. Women will be hired for at least 25-percent of the busser positions, with a workforce composition goal of at least 12-percent after three years. The goal is also to promote at least one woman to the highest ranking floor staff position -- captain -- by the end of three years from the date of the settlement.
  • At Downtown, the Ciprianis' goal is to hire women for at least 50-percent of openings for servers and bartenders, combining both positions, with a workforce composition goal for the combined positions of 33.3%. For bussers, the goal is to hire at least 25% women, with a workforce composition goal of at least 12% after three years. There are no captain positions at Downtown.
  • Recruitment at both restaurants is significantly altered. Typically, high-paying server positions in the industry are advertised by word-of-mouth. However, at Harry Cipriani, after complying with collective bargaining requirements, defendants must place newspaper advertisements for bussers, specifically encouraging both women and men to apply. To the extent that the Ciprianis are permitted to use employment agencies to locate applicants, they must notify those agencies in writing that they are equal opportunity employers and that both women and men are encouraged to apply for floor staff positions at the two restaurants.
  • Extensive recordkeeping of hiring and retention practices at both restaurants will be kept, and quarterly reports will be given to the Attorney General for analysis of compliance with civil rights laws and the Consent Decree.

The Attorney General said that the Cipriani lawsuit was part of a larger investigation of gender discrimination in the restaurant industry that his office is conducting in an effort to overturn longstanding practices that deny women the higher paying positions in New York City's most expensive eateries.

Spitzer released the results of a study, conducted by University of Pennsylvania Professor Jerry Jacobs, a leading sociologist on gender issues in the workplace. The study, the first of its kind, examines 68 New York City restaurants listed in Zagat's Restaurant Guide as "appropriate for visitors on expense accounts" -- that is, the most expensive and elite establishments in the City. The report confirms that there is an available pool of women for floor positions at these restaurants, but certain elite restaurants do not hire women. Among the findings are:

  • Roughly one-third of New York City's most elite restaurants have not hired women for server positions.
  • Of the restaurants that do hire women, women comprise roughly 30% of the servers in those establishments.
  • The average wage (salary and tips) per night for a waiter at these establishments is $209, though waiters at some establishments earn as much as $350 per night.
  • In restaurants that used word-of-mouth hiring, 20.1% of the servers were women, compared with 33.3% of servers in other restaurants. In restaurants that used newspaper advertisements to recruit, 27.8% of the servers were women, compared with just 14.2% in other elite restaurants where women are employed.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Hilary B. Klein and Lisa Landau of the Civil Rights Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Andrew G. Celli, Jr. and Deputy Bureau Chief Mark G. Peters.