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Sexual assault, abuse subject of Nonna Emilia lawsuit
The Aloha restaurant's owners served with federal lawsuit
Six women have filed a federal lawsuit against the management of Nonna Emilia Ristorante in Aloha, citing sexual assault, battery, harassment, abuse and a hostile work environment.
Nonna Emilia Ristorante has been in business in Aloha since 1978 and is located at 17210 S.W. Shaw St.
The restaurants kitchen manager, Justin Ceccanti, is accused of multiple incidents of harassment that include sexual assault, harassment and favoritism that impacted employees wages, according to federal court documents. Ceccanti is the son of the restaurants owner, Stephen Ceccanti.
As the owners son and manager with a significant level of autonomy and authority, J. Ceccanti was a proxy for defendant Nonna Emilia, reads the lawsuit, which claims that the restaurant is liable for its managers alleged sexual harassment.
The lawsuit, which was filed on Oct. 10, claims that neither owner Stephen Ceccanti, nor the restaurants management team responded to repeated complaints about sexual harassment and abuse made by employees over a year-long period.
The plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit include female servers, hostesses and cooks, all of whom quit claiming that they no longer felt safe while at work. The alleged harassment occurred in 2014 and 2015. The lawsuit seeks to collect damages in the amount of more than $1 million per plaintiff.
The allegations against Justin Ceccanti include verbal and physical contact involving the female employees at the restaurant.
The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries conducted an extensive investigation involving Nonna Emilia and found substantial evidence regarding all of the allegations.
One of the women said she was pregnant at the time of the alleged assault. The lawsuit claims that Justin Ceccanti walked her to her vehicle when she completed her shift and assaulted her.
Court documents state that upon the womans next shift at work, Justin Ceccanti pleaded with her not to say anything. She told attorneys that she feared for her job and was afraid that because she was pregnant, she would have difficulty finding employment elsewhere.
Other women who worked at the restaurant claimed that Justin Ceccanti routinely used abusive, profane and humiliating language toward female employees of Nonna Emilia. One claimed he would find reasons to rub up against her and press his body against hers, acting as if he needed to reach something near her.
Two female employees said that on separate occasions, they got drunk with Justin Ceccanti after work, and claimed he carried them into a bathroom where he allegedly tried to kiss them and fondle their breasts and genitals. Another woman said that after drinking heavily, Justin Ceccanti undressed her on the restaurants patio and convinced her to run around the restaurant naked, then tried to touch her genitals.
Justin Ceccantis comments were also violent, the lawsuit alleges. According to the lawsuit, he threatened to hit one employee with a frying pan, threw a tray of lasagna at another and called one woman into the office toward the end of 2014. In that incident, he allegedly locked the door and screamed at her, You are so ugly, I just want to punch you in the face, after she intervened in a situation that involved an incident between Justin and a 16-year-old girl who was employed at the restaurant.
The women said that they were retaliated against when they spoke up about the alleged harassment. After a plaintiff allegedly rejected Justin Ceccantis sexual advances, he gave her poor shifts and table assignments.
Another manager named in the lawsuit, Linda Warning, is a reported family friend of the Ceccantis. When employees reported the alleged harassment to her, Warning reportedly spread gossip and made the women feel as though they could not trust a chain-of-command with the employer, the lawsuit alleges.
According to court documents, Stephen Ceccanti, the owner, was made aware of the many incidents several times and responded by saying that he could not take responsibility for his sons actions.
In late 2014, court papers allege that Justin Ceccanti asked one of the plaintiffs to find out what other female employees were saying about his sexual relationships and requested the plaintiff to spread rumors about those employees. The plaintiff said she refused, which caused Justin Ceccanti to become angry.
Attorney Rick Franklin, who represents Nonna Emilia Ristorante, said Monday that his clients would not back down against the allegations. He requested interview questions for his clients, which the Valley Times has provided, but he gave no response to those questions as of press time.
The plaintiffs in this case are not named in this article out of respect for the reported victims.