A food server at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. claims that Houston Rockets players taunted him in the locker room with anti-gay slurs before a 2013 game against the Brooklyn Nets, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday. The employee alleges that he was ultimately fired for complaining to management about the incident.
Rasean Tate is suing the Rockets and Levy Restaurant Holdings, the company that handles catering for Barclays Center, for civil rights violations and anti-gay discrimination.
Tate, 28, alleges he was harassed for being gay while setting up a buffet in the visiting Rockets locker room before their Feb. 22, 2013 game against the Nets. "When the plaintiff's back was turned to defendant Rockets players, he began to hear laughter and taunting voices saying, 'Get this [expletive] out of here!' and 'He's trying to catch a sneaky peaky!'," the lawsuit states.
"When the plaintiff's back was turned to defendant Rockets players, he began to hear laughter and taunting voices saying, 'Get this [expletive] out of here!' and 'He's trying to catch a sneaky peaky!'," the lawsuit states.
The server alleges the harassment was not short-lived and that players continued to mock him, although the suit does not specify which players made the remarks.
"These series of comments were repeated a number of times by defendant Rockets players and staff," according to court papers. "Plaintiff could hear defendant Rockets players' overlapping voices and laughter."
Tate claims a Nets employee witnessed the incident and told him to "just leave" and that he would "take care of it," the suit alleges.
Two days later, Tate went to a catering manager for Levy Restaurant Holdings to give her details about what had transpired. According to the suit, he was offered a verbal apology and told the situation would be addressed. Tate was also told Nets players attended tolerance and sensitivity training, apparently in response to his complaint.
But this wasn't the end of the server's problems.
The suit alleges the catering company removed Tate from locker room duty following his complaints, leading to a significant decrease in his work hours and pay.
"This was solely in retaliation for his complaints about the harassment and discrimination he faced by defendant Rockets players and because of the plaintiff's sexual orientation," the suit alleges.
Tate claims the catering company violated its own policies by choosing a female employee to cater the dressing room of a male player, even though company policy mandates same-sex assignments for dressing rooms. The suit claims Tate was the only male employee available at the time, and yet he was not assigned to the dressing room in question.
The plaintiff was chastised for fulfilling customers' requests, including "retrieving a fork for a customer," according to court papers. Tate was suspended without pay, and although Levy's human resources representative claimed that the suspension was not a disciplinary action, Tate has not been asked back to work, according to court papers.
"What happened to my client was deplorable," Tate's lawyer Marjorie Meisdor told the New York Post, which broke the story. "It should not be tolerated by the Houston Rockets or Levy's. What they needed to do was address his concerns, not retaliate against him for having the courage to speak up."
Representatives for the Rockets did not immediately respond to phone calls seeking comment. The Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center are not being sued.