The lawyer who raised a firestorm in West Hollywood’s gay community with a civil rights suit against gay bar Micky’s, a popular Boystown club known for its go-go dancers and male strippers, has also filed lawsuits against two other gay establishments, WEHOville has learned.
Matthew Krupnick, who represents nine former Micky’s employees who allege they were subjected to lewd conduct, a sexually hostile work environment and racial and heterosexual discrimination, also has filed suits against Eleven nightclub and Fiesta Cantina restaurant.
“Gay establishments should be held to the same level of accountability as any other establishment,” said Krupnick, a 34-year-old gay attorney specializing in employment and personal injury law who graduated from the Pepperdine University School of Law. “Any company that breaks the law with regards to their employees has got to be held accountable.”
“… When a client comes to me and tells me about horrendous, horrific wrongs they’re going through in their workplace, I don’t care if it’s a gay club or a straight club. If there are egregious things going on, I will take the case assuming I find it to be meritorious.”
In the suit against Kahuna Restaurant Group, owner of Fiesta Cantina, a former bartender who is gay, according to Krupnick, and who worked at the restaurant for eight years (court documents show his name is Jordan Shannon) alleges that Michael Bazera, one of the three Kahuna owners, asked him to bartend naked. Shannon also alleges Bazera and other managers sexually harassed him.
The lawsuit states that, due to comments from employees and customers that he should bartend naked and show off his penis, Shannon felt “he was only employed for and valued as a person based on his looks and penis size.”
The lawsuit alleges one general manager asked Shannon to get liquor out of the liquor room knowing he would see another manager having sex. Shannon also claims a general manager would often touch him inappropriately, and that Bazera often asked him, in a manner that came across as an order, to bartend shirtless.
In addition to Fiesta Cantina, which is located at 8865 Santa Monica Blvd. near San Vicente, Kahuna owns Cabo Cantina on Sunset Boulevard and several other Southern California bars and restaurants catering to both gay and straight customers. Shannon’s suit charges Kahuna with wrongful termination, discrimination, retaliation and intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence. The lawsuit, filed in October 2012 in Los Angeles Superior Court, is currently scheduled for a court hearing in May 2014.
In the suit against Eleven owner Richard Grossi and Eleven LP and 8811 LLC, companies controlled by Grossi, seven former employees allege the nightclub didn’t provide required breaks, failed to pay penalties when late with back pay and wrongfully terminated them after their lawyers contacted Eleven.
Court documents show the plaintiffs are Ivan Djurovic, Jose Figueroa, Claudia Sanchez, Armando de Lao, Mario Carrillo, Lars Slind and Chad Spodick. That suit was filed in July 2012 in Los Angeles Superior Court. A trial date hasn’t been set. Eleven is located at 8811 Santa Monica Blvd. at Larrabee.
Calls to Eleven and Fiesta Cantina for comment were not returned.
Krupnick’s suit against Micky’s, originally filed in July 2011 and scheduled for an October trail, has been postponed to January. When WEHOville published news of the Micky’s lawsuit in May, gay men in West Hollywood and around the country reacted angrily, some criticizing Krupnick and many arguing that sexually licentious behavior should be tolerated in gay bars. One WEHOville.com commenter even called for a demonstration in front of Krupnick’s West Hollywood office.
Krupnick said he knows publicity about these other suits will paint an even bigger target on his back among many in the gay community.
“I became the go-to guy at some point,” said Krupnick who reports he’s accustomed to threats as he received death threats in 2011 from homophobes for accepting the National LGBT Bar Association’s prestigious Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40 Award. “I’m not pursuing these cases. They’re approaching me. They’re coming to me because they’ve heard about the Micky’s lawsuit. I’ve also turned down as many [gay] cases as I’ve taken.”
Krupnick said gay clients make up only about 15 percent of his practice and notes that it likely wouldn’t be that high a percentage except that Lambda Legal Defense Fund and other lawyers often refer potential gay clients with workplace cases to him.
“I’m not suing gay people,” he said. “I’m suing companies, some of which gay people are involved in or own. Those companies happen to run gay establishments.”
Among his cases that don’t have a gay connection, he is representing eight people suing Walmart on charges including age discrimination, retaliation and wage disputes. He also is representing seven sheriff’s deputies in a wrongful termination case against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.