A lawsuit seeking $15 million alleges the owner of an upscale Sussex County restaurant sexually harassed and abused six of his former employees.
Filed Monday in Sussex County Superior Court, the suit calls Sparta's Mohawk House owner Stephen Scro a "sexual predator," and alleges his employees were subjected to countless acts of sex abuse and illegal discrimination for years.
Scro is accused of creating a culture of intimidation and threatened his employees that in Sparta he had close connections with many powerful people, including the Sparta police department, judges and local politicians, The Manhattan-based firm representing the six employees Bennitta L. Joseph and Jon L. Norinsberg of Joseph & Norinsberg LLC said in a release.
"Scro often grabbed, smacked and squeezed his employees’ buttocks, and at least once, touched an employee’s vaginal area," according to the law firm representing the six former workers,
"[He] repeatedly objectified his female employees demanding they obtain breast enhancements and wear low cut blouses."
An attorney representing Mohawk House said complaints were "without basis."
Plaintiff James Kruzelnick
Kruzelnick was a waiter at Mohawk House from 2005 until 2018. The year he left he disclosed he was gay, and Scro began to make gay jokes and comments to him, the suit alleges. When Kruzelnick was out sick, Scro asked him upon return if he had HIV. Scro's attitude became increasingly hostile, and often called Kruzelnick a "faggot" or made gay jokes. Another worker also apparently made gay jokes to Kruzelnick but was never disciplined for his improper behavior -- and instead, rewarded, the lawsuit alleges.
Kruzelnick has apparently tried taking legal action in the past but, but Scro's abusive behavior worsened. In 2018, Kruzelnick's employment was terminated by Scro, who apparently then sent him a threatening letter and a phone call from Sparta police.
Plaintiff AnnMarie Stefano
Stefano was hired as a bartender in November 2016. Scro engaged in sexually-charged banter with her, smacked and groped her buttocks, and suggested making herself "hotter" with breast enhancement surgery, the lawsuit says.
Stefano was once getting ice for the bar with a coworker in the basement hall when Scro smacked and groped her buttocks, and touched her vaginal area, the lawsuit says. When asked by Scro how she was doing the following day, Stefano said she was tired from being up crying all night long. Scro responded by telling her he knew everyone in Sussex County including the FBI and police, and that "no one could ever win a case against me," the lawsuit alleges.
Stefano's complaints were ignored and she resigned in November 2019, the suit says.
Four other plaintiffs Denise Guagenti, Lisa Stoeckel, Kayla Dollar and Craig Vaccarro allege similar behavior from Scro in the suit.
“The Plaintiffs have all suffered physical and emotional distress because of Scro’s abhorrent and improper actions that were ignored for many years," Joseph said.
"No one should suffer this heinous and inappropriate abuse and intimidation in the workplace. And no one should feel uncomfortable, ashamed and humiliated at work.”
Scro and his wife have opened Mohawk House for 15 years and are in the process of opening Modern Farmer on Route 15 in Sparta.
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