Depew Mayor Steven P. Hoffman and another top Depew official are among six people named in a sexual harassment complaint filed with the State Division of Human Rights by a former employee of a village tavern.
Christina Kieffer contends she was sexually harassed during her 3½ months as a bartender at the Bradford Ale House by co-workers and managers who she says leered at her, made suggestive comments and – in one case – grabbed her inappropriately.
She said she lodged a complaint with the state agency after nothing was done in response to the alleged incidents and because her treatment on the job was compounded by her firing in August.
“I was embarrassed, and I was hurt. They forced me to work in this hostile environment,” Kieffer said in an interview late Sunday.
The Bradford Ale House, 6036 Transit Road, is owned jointly by Hoffman’s wife, Sue, and Frank Caparaso, who is Depew’s director of community development.
Steven Hoffman and the lawyer representing the tavern and its employees declined to comment on specific allegations but, speaking generally, said the complaint is without merit.
“It’s an employment matter, and we’re confident that once all of the facts are presented to the Division of Human Rights there will be a determination that there’s been no wrongdoing by the employer,” said Heather A. Giambra, an attorney with Schroeder, Joseph & Associates.
Kieffer said she was the subject of harassment from male co-workers almost from the time she started working at the Bradford on May 1.
“As soon as you would walk in the kitchen, the line cooks would be whistling at you,” Kieffer said.
She said employees made comments about her figure and about her clothing.
One day in July, according to Kieffer, a cook named Glenn Kunzman Jr. told her that he and other employees were discussing her figure, comparing her with a male dishwasher named Phil Lichtenberger.
Later that day, Kieffer said, Lichtenberger came up behind her, reached around her and grabbed her. She said she punched Lichtenberger in the side in response and, later that night, complained about the incident to her boyfriend.
It wasn’t long before everyone in the tavern, including some customers, had heard about the incident, but no one ever addressed it with Kieffer, and Lichtenberger was never punished, Kieffer contends.
Kieffer said in an interview that she didn’t quit her job because she hoped to continue working at the bar without having to put up with any harassment.
On Aug. 23, however, she says she was fired by Caparaso, who told her that she had too much drama in her personal life and who accused her of fraternizing with patrons. Kieffer, however, insists he had no reason to fire her.
Caparaso, Sue and Steven Hoffman, Bradford manager Glenn Kunzman Sr., Kunzman Jr. and Lichtenberger are named in the complaint, which was filed late last month with the Division of Human Rights.
Kieffer said Steven Hoffman was in the bar far more often than was his wife and he played a role in managing the Bradford’s affairs, including assigning her hours and telling her what clothing to wear.
Hoffman said he visited the bar regularly because of his wife’s ownership role, because their two children work there and because he knows Caparaso and other employees. Steven Hoffman and Caparaso are both retired from the Depew Police Department.
Steven Hoffman said he has no formal responsibilities at the Bradford Ale House. And, without getting into specifics, he emphasized the complaint has nothing to do with Depew village government and said there’s no truth to the former employee’s claims.
“They’re laughable, and it’s the price you pay for doing business in New York State. Anybody can make an allegation,” Hoffman told The Buffalo News.
Giambra, the attorney representing the Bradford and the workers named in the complaint, said she plans to file a formal response next month with the Division of Human Rights.