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Owner of controversial Heart Attack Grill in downtown Las Vegas accused of sexual harassment

Posted at 4:55 PM, Jan 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-18 02:18:21-05

LATEST: A sexual harassment lawsuit was filed by a former employee against Jon Basso, the owner of Heart Attack Grill in downtown Las Vegas. As that case makes it way through the courts, 13 Action News is looking into how you can spot signs of harassment.

"When I counsel people I tell them do not send a text back, do not answer the phone call," said Dr. Daliah Wachs.

The tips are practical but Dr. Wachs says it's not always easy to follow-through.

"Big mistake that a lot of people do," said Dr. Wachs, "they don't want to hurt the feelings."

Dr. Wachs says avoid the person if possible. If not, keep interactions short. Don't respond to their communication and know when it's time to contact the authorities.

In this case, attorneys for the former employee declined to comment. 13 Action News is waiting to hear back from Jon Basso.

ORIGINAL: The owner of Heart Attack Grill, known for its supersized hamburgers and waitresses dressed as nurses, in downtown Las Vegas has been accused of sexual harassment.

According to a lawsuit filed earlier this week, a former waitress is claiming that owner Jon Basso sent her a nude photo and "harassing and inappropriate" texts, made inappropriate comments to her inside his restaurant, and had dozens of roses delivered to her home.

Additionally, Basso is accused of sending the former employee a photo of a life-sized cardboard cut-out of her that he tossed in a dumpster and the message "Where it belongs."

Jaimee Lee was hired by the restaurant in October 2011. She says she noticed right away that he had a volatile temper.

Lee claims that the inappropriate romantic gestures began in 2015 when he had dozens of roses delivered to the employee's home.

In May of 2016, Basso allegedly yelled at Lee when she mentioned she had been talking to a guy with tattoos. He told her that he was "disgusted" with her and no one would want to be with her if chose to be with the tattooed guy.

In October 2016, Basso reportedly showed up at Lee's home and began crying, saying that he loved her and would give everything up for her. Basso was upset by Lee's rejection and left her home in anger.

On May 1, 2017, Basso sent an email to Lee expressing his love once again. He acknowledged knowing Lee did not return his feelings. He also said he wrote the email so that she could use it against him someday.

When Lee brought up resigning because of Basso's treatment, he told her that he would not allow her to quit because he is a "jealous psychopath." He also said that he had to be in her life.

The lawsuit says that Basso began resenting Lee over time because of her continued rejection. On Nov. 5, 2017, he sent her a text to inform her that she would not be on the schedule that week. He also told her that if she did show up at the restaurant, her behavior would be monitored and recorded.

He also threatened legal action if she made any adverse public or private statements against the company or himself. Within days, he began telling Lee's coworkers that she had been fired.

This is not the first time that Basso and his restaurant has made headlines.

The first Heart Attack Grill opened in Tempe, Arizona, in 2005. That same year, another restaurant opened in Dallas, Texas. However, it closed a few months later for non-payment of rent. The Las Vegas location opened on Fremont Street in 2011.

The restaurant has often been criticized for encouraging an unhealthy lifestyle.

The restaurant's spokesman Blair River, who weighed 575 pounds, died of pneumonia complications on March 1, 2011. His unhealthy lifestyle and weight were blamed for his death. The Arizona location closed shortly after his death. Many blame it on the negative publicity surrounding River's death.

On Feb. 11, 2012, a customer suffered what appeared to be a heart attack while eating the Triple Bypass Burger at the restaurant. A couple of months later, a woman passed out while eating a Double Bypass Burger.

And in February 2013, an official spokesman and daily patron, 52-year-old John Alleman, died of an apparent heart attack while waiting for the bus outside of the Las Vegas restaurant.

Basso later went on TV and claimed that he was going to put the cremated remains of someone who died in his restaurant on display. He did not specify whom the customer was.

The restaurant also appeared on Dirty Dining on 13 Action News in 2012.