Hooters Waitress Says She Was Sexually Assaulted at Work

Tacony’s Jade Velez says she was targeted by a kitchen employee at the chain’s Northeast Philly location.

Left: Former Hooters waitress Jade Velez of Northeast Philadelphia. (Photo courtesy Jade Velez) | Right: The front of a Hooters restaurant. (Photo via iStockPhoto)

Everybody knows that the business model of Hooters centers on attractive women in tight outfits serving cold beers and hot wings. But one young woman who worked at a Hooters in Philadelphia says she was the victim of sexual harassment and mistreatment at the bar that allegedly culminated in her being sexually assaulted.

Jade Velez, a 19-year-old woman from the Tacony section of Philadelphia, started working at the Roosevelt Boulevard Hooters in Northeast Philadelphia back in December 2015, shortly after she had turned 18.

Within a few months of taking the job, Velez claims, she was targeted by a male kitchen employee, according to allegations contained in a federal lawsuit Velez just filed. The suit names Hooters, the employee (whom she knows only as “Michael S.”), and three former managers at the location.

Velez claims that the man would regularly make “sexually obscene” comments about her body and that he’d ask her when she was going to break up with her boyfriend. She says that when she complained, the male managers of the Hooters would mostly shrug it off, sometimes telling Michael to go back into the kitchen where he belonged but never subjecting him to any disciplinary action. And she adds that the managers blamed her, saying things like, “Don’t play with him, and he won’t come out here.”

She says she continued to report the harassment to the managers but that nothing was done, and Michael’s comments “escalated in both their lewdness and frequency” around April 2016, according to the suit.

Near the end of her shift on May 13th of that year, Velez claims that Michael cornered her in a back storage area at the Hooters and that he grabbed and groped her as she struggled to get away. Eventually, as she became “terrified of the quickly escalating sexual assault,” she was able to break free.

Velez says that she reported the incident to the manager on duty that night. His solution? He said that he would leave a note for the other managers coming in the next day. Velez claims that the manager that night was unconcerned and unwilling to help, so she walked out, and she says that he never left a note for the other managers.

When she called the next day, she says she was told that she was out of a job, because she left voluntarily — she had quit, they reasoned. But, as the suit puts it, Hooters “made conditions so onerous, abusive, and intolerable … that no woman in [her] shoes would have been expected to continue working under such conditions …”

Velez filed a report with police on May 14th. The Special Victims Unit launched an investigation, but no arrests have been made.

“Sexual harassment is illegal and employees don’t have to accept it,” says Velez’s attorney, Samuel Wilson of Walnut Street’s Derek Smith Law Group. “We are outraged when hard-working individuals are exposed to extreme acts of discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace.”

The suit seeks unspecified damages. Neither the Northeast Philly Hooters nor the chain’s corporate office responded to a request for comment.

This story has been updated with new information about a police investigation.

Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter