Eighteen-year-old Emily Houser alleges that she was harassed by her manager for two years while she worked at Chili’s, starting from the age of 16. As if that weren’t bad enough, the teen says her Chili’s co-workers shamed her for reporting the alleged harassment by throwing a party for her alleged harasser. Yes, really. People are awful.
In an interview with BuzzFeed, Houser explained that she became an employee at a Chili’s Grill & Bar in Whitehall, Pennsylvania, at the age of 16. Houser alleged that her manager, Josh Davidson, who was then 24, began to aggressively pursue her. She claimed, “He would just show up to my house uninvited and say he was outside and I had to come with him." Houser said that Davidson’s behavior “escalated” over time and that he would frequently bring her unwanted gifts.
Houser claimed that, when she turned 18, her manager came to her high school with gifts and “officially” asked her out. She turned him down, but he kept hounding her and, a number of times, came to her house late a night. She told BuzzFeed, “In August, the last time he showed up to my house around 2:30 in the morning, he gave me a card with hundreds of dollars in it, to which I gave it back and kind of told him to just really back off of me, because I was so obviously not interested in him and did not want to be with him.”
Houser alleged that Davidson subsequently started “being verbally and even physically weird and abusive towards [her] at work.” When he started focusing his attention on another young female employee, Houser decided to report him to upper management, fearing that the new employee would be subjected to the same treatment that she had been. Houser also put in her two weeks’ notice.
If that were the end of the story, it would be awful enough. BuzzFeed says that Davidson has not responded to request for comment, but if what Houser says is true — that a 24-year-old man insistently pursued a 16-year-old girl, and that he was also her boss — then what happened to her was profoundly messed up. When a guy visits a woman persistently in the middle of the night, without an invitation, bringing gifts she doesn’t want and refusing to take “no” as an answer, that’s sexual harassment, full stop.
But it gets worse: After Houser reported the harassment to corporate headquarters, management investigated and transferred Davidson to a different Chili’s location. On his last day at the Whitehall location this past weekend, Houser’s former co-workers threw Davidson a going away party. The theme? “F--k Emily Houser.” They even had it written on a cake:
Houser saw an image of the cake posted on Instagram and several comments left by co-workers that said “#teamjosh. (The Instagram accounts of the person who posted the image and several commenters have since been taken down.) “I didn’t know how to feel, except I just didn’t really feel anything,” Houser told BuzzFeed. “And then I just started to cry, because I came to terms with the fact that I did call these people my friends and I did love them and care about them, and I have no idea why they were doing this to me.”
Chili’s has confirmed that Davidson has since been fired. “We do not condone and are disappointed by the actions that took place,” a Chili’s Grill & Bar spokesperson tells Bustle of the incident. “When this issue surfaced, our franchise partner conducted a thorough investigation. As a result, the Team Members involved are no longer with the company.”
Houser told BuzzFeed that, for her part, she's just happy that future employees will not have to face the same harassment that she did.