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Twin waiters sue Vermont Restaurant owners

February 18, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Twin brothers file suit against their former employers, claiming sexual harassment. The case went to trial Wednesday. The men worked as waiters at the Vermont Restaurant. While working, the gay brothers claim they were harassed by the male owners of the restaurant. One brother said he was fired and the other one said he was forced to quit because the sexual harassment in the workplace had gotten out of hand.

"I was terminated because I didn't give into any sexual advances made by Mr. Mesta or Mr. Gelzhiser," said Jed Lorenzen, who filed the lawsuit.

Thirty-two-year-old waiter Jed Lorenzen and his twin brother, Wyatt, say their employers, Manuel Mesta and Michael Gelzhiser, sexually harassed them repeatedly for more than a year. The twin brothers worked for Mesta and Gelzhiser at Vermont Restaurant in the Los Feliz area. The Lorenzen brothers say the restaurant owners touched them inappropriately and used sexually explicit language.

"It made me feel very uncomfortable and disgusted and I didn't -- I just wanted just to be at work comfortably and make my money and go home," said Jed.

Jed described what he says was a typical telephone conversation with one of the owners.

"Mr. Mesta would ask me if I was in a swimsuit or in a bikini or if I was naked lying by a pool, and I was just shocked, and had no idea why I was being asked these questions," said Jed.

"The laws do protect employees from sexual banter in the workplace, that is still illegal conduct," said Sarah Hernandez, the Jed Lorenzen's attorney.

In opening statements Wednesday afternoon, the defense attorney for the restaurant owners said the twin waiters were bad employees, often late and often reprimanded. The defense went on to say the civil law case filed by the Lorenzens is "just a way to make money."

Wednesday afternoon, attorney John Kaplan released this statement: "The defendants have full faith in the judicial system and believe the jury, after hearing all the evidence, will come to the correct decision."

The twin brothers said they will have witnesses to testify in court. That they too are restaurant employees, that they too were harassed by the owners. However, the defense says that the twins were not able to get any other employees to support their story. The seven-day trial continues Thursday.


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