The reason John Thompson chose to touch his employees didn’t sit well with Douglas County Judge Stephanie Hansen.
Defense attorney James Martin Davis explained that Thompson, who was a general manager at Local Beer, Patio and Kitchen at 902 Dodge St., was in a pressure-filled environment. It was frustrating when employees showed up late, called in sick or were on their phones during work hours, Davis said.
But that’s no excuse for how Thompson, 57, treated six female employees, Hansen said.
“You used your position as a boss and as a male to make them feel small,” the judge said. “Hands on their bottoms or lips on their lips. That’s not OK, and that’s not a way to punish them.”
Hansen gave Thompson 30 days in jail and two years of probation. Thompson had pleaded guilty to four counts of third-degree assault, all misdemeanors. He had been charged with six counts of third-degree sexual assault and six counts of disturbing the peace.
Hansen also said Thompson must write an apology letter to each of the six women who were harassed at work.
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The women reported unwanted touching to Omaha police in February and filed complaints with the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission. They also spoke to Charlie Yin, Thompson’s boss and the owner of the restaurant, which also has locations in Millard and Gretna. Yin fired Thompson after a World-Herald article laid out the workers’ complaints.
One woman told police that Thompson grabbed her buttocks, moaned in her ear, then kissed her on the lips before she left for the night. Other women said Thompson touched their backs, buttocks and thighs and yelled insults and curse words at them.
Davis said the allegations were not corroborated by other employees, according to an investigation launched by the restaurant. He also said the women received settlements of $10,000 to $40,000 as a result of the complaints with the equal opportunity commission.
Prosecutor Makayla Danner said because of the nondisclosure agreements, some of the women were afraid to speak to probation workers about what they went through for a presentence investigation, even though Danner said they are allowed to talk. Danner said the women still are going to counseling to deal with the emotional scars that Thompson inflicted but didn’t take full responsibility for.
“The young ladies were afraid they would be sued by Local if they came to the court and spoke the truth,” Danner said. “We feel the things that he has done are severely egregious.”
Two of the women who filed reports appeared in court Thursday, although they declined to comment.
Davis said Thompson now works as an estimator in the construction industry.
A mother of one of the women, who did not give her name, said the sentence should have been harsher.
“The victim shaming and blaming has to end,” she said.