Two Jazzman’s Library Tower Cafe employees, Jimmy Alvarez and William Gonzalez, were suspended on April 16 after numerous sexual harassment allegations were made against them, according to four people who work at the cafe.
The allegations led to an investigation into the behavior of Alvarez, a supervisor, and Gonzalez, a barista, which began shortly after the death of BU senior Haley Anderson, who worked at Jazzman’s. Four employees said Anderson frequently complained that Gonzalez’s comments and messages made her uncomfortable, but she never officially reported the harassment. Anderson refused to attend shifts that Gonzalez also worked, according to one employee.
In the weeks following Anderson’s death, nine female employees brought their own complaints to Binghamton University Dining Services’ (BUDS) human resources department, one employee said. Four employees said Anderson’s death served as a catalyst for the women to come forward.
“This started with women banding together and saying ‘Enough is enough,’ but a lot of the male staff members have stepped forward as well and come out and said that they have not only witnessed this happening — they’ve heard about it,” a female employee said.
A petition in defense of Alvarez and Gonzalez was published on Change.org on Wednesday and stated that the two were suspended and in danger of losing their employment after being accused of “offering complimentary food and beverages to members of the community.” Though the four Jazzman’s employees who spoke with Pipe Dream said this was not the reason Alvarez and Gonzalez were suspended, the petition has garnered more than 2,300 signatures as of Thursday evening. A GoFundMe fundraiser has raised $1,800 to support Alvarez and Gonzalez, who have been suspended without pay, according to the crowdfunding page.
Four employees said many of the women working at the cafe chose evening shifts to avoid interacting with Alvarez and Gonzalez, who typically worked in the morning. Most staff members knew about the harassment, according to the employees who spoke with Pipe Dream. One employee said Gonzalez was known to touch female workers and ask them suggestive questions. Gonzalez and Alvarez could not be reached for comment.
Three employees said Randy Kellar, human resources manager for BUDS, began interviewing employees at the cafe in the week after spring break. One employee praised the human resources office for its conduct during the investigations, which are ongoing.
Jim Ruoff, resident district manager for BUDS, said he can offer little information at this time.
“All parties involved will remain on leave,” Ruoff said. “After the investigation is concluded, we will determine the best course of action to take. I appreciate everybody’s thoughts and concerns.”
One employee said he has worked at Jazzman’s for three years and wanted to dispel the misinformation about the men’s suspensions which had been published as part of the petition. He said the petition, while well-intentioned, was ultimately misguided.
Another employee, who said she has seen many other employees complain about the behavior of both men during her time at Jazzman’s, said the popularity of the petition has jeopardized over a months’ worth of effort.
“This whole disinformation campaign is really threatening all of the hard-won peace that everyone had fought for,” the employee said.