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Java the hurt! Gorilla Coffee sues the New York Times

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The owners of Gorilla Coffee — where irate employees walked out en masse in April — are suing the New York Times for destroying their lives by covering the debacle.

Darleen Scherer and Carol McLaughlin, co-owners of the Fifth Avenue java joint, say the were subjected to “shame, emotional distress, embarrassment and … contempt and ridicule” after the Old Gray Lady reprinted the irate staff’s “defamatory” resignation letter.

It is unclear what was legally defamatory in the letter, which aired gripes that Scherer and McLaughlin had “a perpetually malicious, hostile, and demeaning work environment” that was “unhealthy” and “unworkable.”

Two weeks after the entire staff quit, the business reopened with new workers — but the owners claim that the damage was done.

“Gorilla Coffee has sustained a loss of its reputation and a decline in its business attributable to the defamatory statements published by the New York Times,” the court documents say. “[The letter] was furnished by [former employees] with express and implied malice and with design and intent to injure Gorilla Coffee in its good name and reputation.

“Prior to the … defamatory publication, Gorilla Coffee, Scherer and McLaughlin had built up among the general public … a certain goodwill as merchants … and possessed a reputation for fair dealing, courtesy and accommodat­ion,” the court documents continue.

The two-week-long saga began last April when the all the employees at the café on Fifth Avenue on Park Place abruptly quit and detailed their beef with Scherer and McLaughlin in the open letter printed by the Times and The Brooklyn Paper, which has not been sued.

A spokeswoman for the New York Times, Diane McNulty, said, “We have not been served with the complaint. If we are served, we plan to defend the case vigorously.”

McLaughlin and Scherer could not be reached, but their lawyer, Stephen Finkelstein, said that “a fair amount have said they’re not going to patronize” the shop since the Times article came out. It is unclear how much business, if any, has been lost to the media coverage of the mass walkout.

The lawsuit was first reported by the blog, F—ed in Park Slope.

Updated 1:14 pm, October 27, 2010: Includes claim by Gorilla's lawyer.
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Reasonable discourse

Rob from Greenpoint says:
Tort reform !
Oct. 27, 2010, 8:22 am
Learned Hand from West Slope says:
Indentured Servitude to pay off the judgement.
Oct. 27, 2010, 10:41 am
Close Gorilla Coffee from Park Slope says:
I hope 100% of their customers are not going to "patronize” Gorilla Coffee any more, I know that I haven't & told everyone I know in the neighborhood not to go there.... treat your employees with respect.... when 100% of your employees walk, it’s time for you to do something else…. Good riddance Darleen Scherer & Carol McLaughlin….
Oct. 28, 2010, 9:03 am
Al from Park Slope says:
Perhaps they should have unionized, forcing a cup of coffee and a scone to be $25 and bankrupt the business like all of these American unions do. I guess its true when its said that illegals do the jobs todays Americans will not.

They should have just hired a bunch of illegals who would be more than happy for the opportunity to make and serve your coffee... kinda like every other restaurant/bagle store and bodega does and they wouldnt have had to deal with the typical crybaby American workers who are the byproduct of an over coddled childhood where there are no losers and everybody gets a hug and a trophy at the end of a game.

Waaaaaaa, i dont like my boss...waaaaaaaa
Oct. 28, 2010, 9:24 am
Close Gorilla Coffee from Park Slope says:
Al,
Darleen Scherer & Carol McLaughlin should open a Gorilla Coffee in China where you can abuse employees & pay them a few pennies a day….. Gorilla Coffee sounds like a great place for you to work.... you're EVERYTHING they look for in an employee.... "I'm so lucky to have a job that abuses me!!
Oct. 28, 2010, 9:57 am
thatwassilly from PLG says:
That's not the way to defend yourself against claims your crazy - by doing something crazy (suing the NYT). This merely confirms everything for me.
Oct. 28, 2010, 12:05 pm
Al from Park Slope says:
Well there are laws on the books regarding minimum wage, overtime etc... If they broke those laws you go to the dept. of labor and fill out a complaint. If they were not breaking labor laws by
A. Paying at least minimum wage
B. Not paying overtime which consists of paying time and a half for all hours worked over 40 hrs per week...

If not, then they broke no law and treated nobody unfair.... plain and simple
Oct. 28, 2010, 12:57 pm
Close Gorilla Coffee from Park Slope says:
Al,
It wasn't about MONEY.... it was being treated like crap.... AND there are laws about that too.... what they did was better, they just quit AND didn't cry about it to the government.... and if that hurt the Gorilla Coffee tyrants business then so be it.... first you call them “the typical crybaby American workers who are the byproduct of an over coddled childhood where there are no losers and everybody gets a hug and a trophy at the end of a game. Waaaaaaa, i dont like my boss...waaaaaaaa” cry babies to; the LAWS of big bad government protects them by paying them “at least minimum wage”
Oct. 28, 2010, 1:25 pm
Out & About from Prospect Heights says:
http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/33/16/33_16_kvb_gorilla_walkout.html

This is why they quit,

On Friday, a longstanding conflict between the staff and one of the business partners came to a head when employees demanded that the partner, Carol McLaughlin, be removed from day-to-day operations at the Fifth Avenue coffee bar.
Many longstanding issues have “repeatedly been brushed aside and ignored,” the workers wrote in a missive. The result, they said, was “a perpetually malicious, hostile, and demeaning work environment” that was “unhealthy” and “unworkable.”
The workers added that the wholesale walkout was not meant as a bargaining chip. Indeed, they have no intention of returning to the coffee bar, which is at Park Place.
Oct. 28, 2010, 1:29 pm
J from Brooklyn says:
They would have to show that the New York Times had malice or reckless disregard for the truth in publishing the letter.

Never going to happen.
Oct. 30, 2010, 5:07 pm
Jennifer from Park Slope says:
Sounds like these two tyrants are desperately trying to get back in the news. I just happened to look this story up again since I will NEVER go back to that OPPRESSED business again, and could not believe they have learned absolutely nothing. McLaughlin may have gotten the blame, but I have seen them both at action and the other one is a bit light headed and is the push behind the nasty. Keep up the lousy work ladies. Thank God we live in a country that allows fair treatment!!
Jan. 21, 2011, 10:32 am
J from Brooklyn says:
What are the people of Park Slope thinking? Why would anyone patronize an establishment like this. It sounds as though they are still acting like bullies-If they did not do anything wrong, they could have let their work speak for itself. nuff said
Feb. 17, 2011, 7:39 pm
Will from Brooklyn says:
Is anyone still going to this place?? Way to sell your souls for a cup of coffee. Good for the workers for putting their paycheck where their mouths are-now if only the neighborhood would do the same. I personally have very little faith in Park Slope-obviously not much fair play there-the business is still flourishing
March 24, 2011, 6:02 pm
Zaftig from PH says:
Really? Wow. Why don't they focus on fixing their business instead of suing people.
Aug. 19, 2011, 8:39 am

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