Bartender sues Detroit’s Ready Player One bar arcade for sexual harassment and retaliation

Aug 22, 2019 at 11:28 am
click to enlarge Bartender sues Detroit’s Ready Player One bar arcade for sexual harassment and retaliation
Tom Perkins

A former female bartender at downtown Detroit’s popular Ready Player One bar arcade is suing the company for alleged sexual harassment and retaliation, as well as violations of the Persons With Disability Act.

The suit, filed in August in Wayne County Circuit Court by Stacey Watrobski, claims that she rejected sexual advances from her boss, Trevor Razo. Watrobski alleges that in the months after the incident, Razo treated her with hostility, “openly insulted her,” insulted her boyfriend, cut her hours, “diminished” her wages, harassed her over her disability, then fired her in December 2018.

Watrobski has bulging discs in her back, which limits some of her ability to lift heavy items. According to the suit, Ready Player One’s management and Razo accommodated Watrobski with these tasks prior to the sexual advances. Following the rejection, Razo not only made “cruel commentary” about her disability, but “frequently pressured [Watrobski] into performing work beyond her medical restrictions,” the complaint states.

Watrobski says she was ultimately fired for unclear reasons, but she tells Metro Times it stemmed from her rejecting Razo’s advances, and she says he regularly “bashed me down.”

“I’m a strong woman, but this broke me down — it really did,” she says. “We would work 12-hour shifts, and it would be 12 hours of just being mentally destroyed.”

Watrobski is seeking lost pay and emotional damages, and her attorney, Jack Schulz, says he’s confident a jury will agree that she suffered sexual harassment and retaliation.

“She made a stand against the sexual advances of her manager who thought he could get away with it because he was in a position of power,” Schulz says. “Rather than accept that she wasn't interested, he proceeded to act like a child and he made her life a living hell.”

Watrobski alerted ownership to the problems multiple times, but “they chose to get rid of her instead of dealing with it,” Schulz adds.

Ready Player One’s ownership didn’t return a request for comment, but its attorney, Kassem Dakhlallah, said in a statement: “This lawsuit has no merit. We look forward to vigorously defending against it in court, where we are confident we will prevail.”

The bar arcade opened in Greektown in October 2017 in a Dan Gilbert-owned building. Watrobski says she started at Ready Player One in mid-2018, and the harassment started within about a month.

She alleges in the suit that she regularly closed the bar with Razo, which meant that they regularly worked alone. Razo was frequently flirtatious, but never attempted anything physical until they went to Razo’s car to smoke after they closed the bar early one morning, the complaint states.

Watrobski claims that as she was going to leave the car and go home, she leaned in to give Razo a hug and say goodbye. Instead, Razo attempted to kiss Watrobski on the mouth, the suit alleges.

“[Watrobski] informed Razo that she was seeing someone,” the complaint reads. “Razo brushed off [her] statement and insisted she give him a kiss. After several requests, [Watrobski] ultimately gave Razo a kiss on the cheek. Razo said ‘That’s better,’ then exited the car. [Watrobski] was dejected.”

Watrobski alleges that Razo’s behavior toward her dramatically changed on the following shift. Instead of flirting, being friendly, and helping her with difficult tasks, Razo “began acting extremely hostile.” When Watrobski questioned if everything was OK, Razo allegedly responded, “Just do your job.”

He began to insult Watrobski over her boyfriend, who would sometimes visit the bar. Razo referred to her boyfriend as “ugly Steve,” according to the complaint.

Watrobski also says Razo began to harass her over her disability and ordered her to do more than her medical condition would allow.

According to the complaint, Watrobski was clear about her disability when she was hired and could perform all of the job’s essential duties, but sometimes at the end of the shift her back got sore and she struggled with mop buckets or carrying multiple six packs. Watrobski claims Ready Player One co-owner Mohamed Badaoui told her when she was hired that she “never needed to worry because someone will always be able to help you.”

Razo did help with those tasks until Watrobski rejected his sexual advances, the suit claims. In one incident, he allegedly exclaimed, “Are you so broke that you can’t even pick up a bucket?” In another instance he stated, “Why are you even getting paid if you can’t do your job?” Later he allegedly asked, “Why you are so fucking slow?”

Watrobski claims she reported the issues to co-owner Badaoui after several months and requested a meeting, but Badaoui showed up to the meeting intoxicated. Still, Badaoui and co-owner Wael Gharbie had a talk with Razo, Watrobski says. But Razo didn’t face any discipline, Watrobski says. Instead, he cut Watrobski’s hours in half on the schedule he drew up after meeting with Badaoui.

According to the complaint, the abusive behavior continued and escalated, leading Watrobski to confront Razo about how he was treating her. Razo then wrote up Watrobski for “her attitude and temperament towards him,” she alleges.

Watrobski refused to sign the write up, and again requested that Badaoui address the situation. She says she ultimately met with ownership three times about the harassment. But instead of taking action against Razo, they fired her. Watrobski says that she learned she was fired over text message as she walked into work in December, but says ownership understood and was aware of all that she endured.

“He harassed me every second of every day because I wouldn't kiss him,” she adds. “It really takes a toll.”

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