A former longtime bartender at the Viper Room who alleged he was sexually harassed by his transgender general manager and wrongfully fired in 2017 because he was male and over 40 was awarded a default judgment of nearly $800,000.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elaine Lu granted the $790,650 judgment on June 15 in favor of Michael Speziali, who is now 50 years old and said in a sworn declaration that he once enjoyed the “collegial” atmosphere at the club under general manager Mike Wilson. The club is now under management by a different company that is developing the 8850 Sunset Blvd. project.
Things changed after Wilson left, then returned in November 2016 as a transgender woman newly named Maci Jane Wilson, according to Speziali.
“Over the course of the next several days, Ms. Wilson created a hostile work environment based on overtly sexual language, an unrequited desire for sexual attention and her unwanted physical touching,” Speziali said.
During her first meeting with all Viper Room employees, Maci Wilson said, “I’m a … tranny. I can say it, you cannot,” according to Speziali.
Speziali says he complained to management, but nothing was done and Maci Wilson stepped up her harassment.
“Ms. Wilson started walking behind me while I was bartending to give me an unwelcome shoulder and/or back massage,” Speziali says. “Each time this happened, I would physically cringe, which only seemed to encourage Ms. Wilson. It got to the point where I dreaded when Ms. Wilson came behind the bar as the unwelcome massage happened frequently.”
Wilson often talked about her transition from male to female, described in detail the hormones and medications she was taking and set forth “in excruciating detail” how hormones were affecting her, according to the plaintiff.
Wilson also told Speziali in graphic words how she had different types of sexual encounters in each of the Viper Room’s booths, Speziali says.
Speziali says he was eventually demoted to a barback in February 2017 and that Wilson explained she preferred to have younger, female bartenders. He was fired a month later and says Wilson told him he had failed to promote the Viper Room in his social media accounts, an accusation the plaintiff denies.
Speziali says his firing forced him for financial reasons to move back to New York, where he has relatives.
“I went from a nice apartment in West Hollywood to sleeping on a family member’s couch in New York,” Speziali says.