x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Court hears harassment claims

A restaurant manager sexually harassed four waitresses and threatened to fire them if they complained, a court heard yesterday.

DUBAI // A restaurant manager sexually harassed four waitresses and threatened to fire them if they complained, a court heard yesterday. The women - WT, 27; KB, 33; YS, 32; and HR, 31, all Moroccans - allege that IM, 31, an Egyptian, repeatedly touched them inappropriately while at work. The defendant is charged with sexual assault and making threats. He denies the charges. WT told the Dubai Criminal Court of First Instance that she was groped while clearing a booth at the Garhoud restaurant where she worked.

She quoted him as saying that all Moroccan women are "prostitutes" and that if they complained they would "be deported and banned for life". YS said that IM usually worked in the restaurant's dining area. "He inappropriately touches my colleagues, and he has done so whenever I used the water cooler," she said. The four women said the assaults began during their evening shift, between 6pm and 2am. "After the owner leaves the coffee shop, IM starts harassing us and inappropriately grabbing the other girls," HR told the court.

A 26-year-old chef from Egypt, MH, who has worked at the restaurant for more than three years, said he had never seen the manager harass any of the female staff. "All my work is inside the kitchen, and not once have I seen IM sexually harassing the girls or threatening them," he said. The chef told prosecutors that the four waitresses had always been disruptive at work and refused to follow instructions.

He claimed they have had problems with the owner of the restaurant and have asked him to present them with a release letter allowing them work for another coffee shop. "YS contacted the owner asking him to provide her with a release letter, but she was talked out of doing so, so she then went with the other girls and filed a complaint at the Ministry of Labour," said M H. After the dispute was filed the women stopped showing up for work and the owner of the coffee shop filed an absconding report with the ministry, he said.

"They filed this claim against IM after the absconding report was filed against them," he added. The defendant, if convicted, could face up to three years in jail. The case was adjourned until early September. amustafa@thenational.ae