Village Vanguard Hit with Sexual Harassment, Age Discrimination Suit

By Andrea Swalec on March 4, 2013 1:25pm 

 The Village Vanguard is located at 178 Seventh Ave. South in Greenwich Village.
The Village Vanguard is located at 178 Seventh Ave. South in Greenwich Village.
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Flickr/ScottLenger

MANHATTAN — The Village Vanguard has been a jazz favorite for nearly 80 years, but a former employee of the club claims she faced unfair treatment there for decades.

A 63-year-old woman who says she was fired from her job as a waitress in September 2011 after 35 years has filed a federal sexual harassment and age discrimination lawsuit against the 178 Seventh Ave. South club, according to court documents filed Friday.

Over the course of her employment, plaintiff Madeleine Abel faced unwelcome sexual advances from manager Jed Eisenman, including touching her breasts and buttocks, and griping openly about Abel and other waitresses who were "a little long in the tooth," her attorneys claim in the suit.

"Certain waitresses were getting too old to work at the Vanguard and [don't] look good anymore," Abel said Eisenman regularly told her and other servers over the age of 50.

The Village Vanguard did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the lawsuit.

Abel repeatedly reported the incidents to other managers at the club, but she was rebuffed, the suit adds.

She was fired after suffering an emotional breakdown and taking a leave of absence, the lawsuit says. The suit does not specify a dollar amount Abel seeks in lost pay and emotional damages.

Her attorney, Vincent White, said the Village Vanguard should acknowledge the alleged mistreatment.

“We intend to make every effort to ensure the plaintiff feels satisfied with the outcome of this case," he said in a statement.

"She has worked hard her whole life and deserves a safe and nondiscriminatory work environment. In the absence of those conditions, she deserves just compensation for her losses.” 

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