Former female employees of Acqua Al 2 allege that a manager at the Capitol Hill restaurant harassed them, the Washington Post reports in a complex investigation into several incidents surrounding the Mindful Restaurant Group employee.
The situation came to light after six women sent a letter last year to the Mindful Restaurant Group’s owners Ari and Stacy Gejdenson outlining the alleged incidents and demanding the manager’s firing.
The allegations are against former manager Sajmir “Saji” Rragami, which include but aren’t limited to: slapping an employee in the face, commenting on a Mindful Restaurant Group employee’s breast size, kissing another employee without her consent, touching a hostess’s buttocks, and exposing his penis to a server in 2016. “The Post spoke with an additional 18 former and current employees, many of whom said the company was a place where sexual comments about colleagues, especially from Rragami, were frequent,” reporter Maura Judkis writes.
“I’m shocked by these allegations,” Rragami told the Post. “While I have made mistakes, these claims consist of mischaracterizations and gross fabrications. This is deeply troubling especially that they are coming from people that I remained close with for a long time and well after the supposed incidents occurred.”
Mindful Restaurant Group reportedly fired Rragami in April. But that decision came after learning the Post was working on the story, during which additional past accusations came to light. Before the eventual firing, despite the restaurant owners claiming a zero-tolerance policy in their response to the women accusing him, Rragami was allowed to return to work following a suspension and investigation, according to the report. Additionally, The Post found that his new place of employment, an embroidery company, has ties to the Gejdensons.
The story comes to light about a month after Ari Gejdenson received the Rammy award for Restaurateur of the Year in D.C.
Eater has reached out to Mindful Restaurant Group for any additional comment.