Ex-Hostess Sues Max's Grille Alleging Sexual Harassment

Wednesday, May 21, 2014  |  Updated 6:48 PM EDT
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An ex-hostess at a South Florida restaurant filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging sexual harassment by a customer.

An ex-hostess at a South Florida restaurant filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging sexual harassment by a customer.

A former hostess at Max’s Grille in Mizner Park filed a lawsuit against the restaurant and a customer after she said she was sexually assaulted while sitting at the customer’s table.

“He said, ‘This is what happens when you sit next to me. I get a touch; I get a feel,’” said former hostess Ava Smith.

Smith said the customer, Gordon Heaver, is a “top customer” and alleged he sexually assaulted her in full view of a manager of the restaurant.

“One of the managers was standing right there when this happened,” Smith said. “And after he groped and grabbed and squeezed my breasts, he walked away.”

The former hostess said she informed the manager that she couldn’t finish her shift. Smith said she admitted herself into a hospital later that day due to a panic attack. Smith and her attorney, Jeff Herman, said when she came to work the next day she was treated in a retaliatory manner and eventually fired.

“This has been a pattern at Max’s Grille and management has let Mr. Heaver get away with it for quite some time,” Smith said. “It made me feel like I was unworthy of them protecting me.”

Smith said she’s had such a problem with the incident because she was sexually as a young girl.

“For her, this is unfortunately a trigger,” said Herman. “And a significant part of why she’s so damaged now and so upset about this now is because of what happened to her as a girl.”

“I want people like Gordon Heaver to know that they cannot go inside of an establishment and think that they have the right to grope one of the hostesses that work there,” Smith said.

Management at Max's Grille declined to comment and it's unclear if Heaver or the restaurant have an attorney.

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