The founder and former CEO of Four Barrel Coffee has stepped away from the San Francisco coffee roaster and agreed to divest his ownership following reports of a sexual assault and harassment lawsuit filed last week.
Jeremy Tooker was the target of a lawsuit filed on Friday by former employees who said he assaulted several women, harassed others and created a toxic work environment, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
In a letter on the three-unit chain’s website a day after the report, CEO Tal Mor and chief financial officer Jodi Geren said Tooker stepped down as CEO in November, before the lawsuit was filed, and is no longer an employee and no longer affiliated with the company moving forward. Tooker also agreed to divest ownership, regardless of the outcome of a company investigation.
“We take it very seriously and are deeply saddened,” the letter said. “Four Barrel will not tolerate inappropriate behavior in the workplace. It’s essential that our employees and co-workers understand that they are valued and respected. We will continue to take prompt action to address any and all employee concerns, as we have done in the past.”
According to the report, however, both Mor and Geren are cited in the lawsuit as being aware of the misconduct and employee complaints, but the two did not address the misconduct in any official capacity.
Because of the lawsuit, Mor and Geren said in the letter they can’t comment as fully as they would like. But they said, “We take issue with the claims being asserted in the lawsuit, and the mischaracterization of our current culture.
“We stand with women, people of color, LGBTQ individuals and others who are frequently ignored, unheard or unprotected in our society. We stand with those fighting every day to make workplaces safe, supportive and equal. We’re doing our part where we can have the quickest and surest effect: our own company,” the letter said.
Four Barrel has hired an outside human resources company to facilitate reporting of employee concerns, the letter said.
The lawsuit is the latest in an ongoing series of sexual harassment charges filed within the restaurant industry that has included nationally known chefs and restaurateurs like John Besh, Mario Batali, Ken Friedman and Johnny Iuzzini.
Late last year, the San Francisco Chronicle also reported accusations against Oakland, Calif., chef Charlie Hallowell, who stepped down from day-to-day duties as a result.
By Lisa Jennings
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