A Black restaurant worker is suing his high-end former New York City employer, claiming he was fired for complaining that managers obliged diners who racially discriminated against wait staff.
In a lawsuit filed Monday in New York State Supreme Court, a former employee alleges The Dinex Group—a restaurant conglomerate owned by French chef Daniel Boulud—violated state labor laws by permitting blatant racism in the workplace. (According to Boulud’s website, the restaurateur has been hailed as “one of America’s leading culinary authorities” after arriving to the U.S. in 1982. Twenty restaurants around the world are under the Boulud umbrella.)
“During the course of [the worker’s] employment with [The Dinex Group], [he] was subject to multiple incidents of unprofessional, abusive, offensive, and discriminatory conduct,” the lawsuit states, alleging the company systemically allowed those practices.
The employee worked as a host at one of Boulud’s restaurants, Le Pavillon, described as being a seafood-focused spot on Manhattan’s east side with “a refined elegance” and a nature theme. The restaurant’s three-course dinner is $135 per person. On Aug. 19, a guest declined to have the employee take them to their table, according to the lawsuit. The employee told the lead host, but the lead replied that Le Pavillon had a common practice of pacifying patrons’ needs, including those who did not want to be served by Black wait staff, the suit says.
On Aug. 25, the employee explained the situation to a restaurant manager.
“[The manager] responded that the needs of [the] Patron outweighed the impact of the discriminatory policy,” the lawsuit states.
The employee says he dealt with retaliatory acts after making his complaint to the manager. According to the court filing, his shifts were rescheduled to days he wasn’t available to work, he wasn’t allowed to take breaks during his shifts, and staff became hyper critical of his work.
On Sept. 9, the lawsuit says, the employee was fired “under the false guise of losing the restaurant’s keys; even though [he] was not responsible for the keys on the day that the keys went missing.” What’s more, the worker who lost the keys was not let go, the suit says.
The employee’s suit says he has suffered financial loss and mental anguish, and wants payment for lost wages and benefits, legal fees, punitive damages, and for The Dinex Group to receive a civil penalty.
In a statement to The Daily Beast Tuesday, The Dinex Group CEO Sebastien Silvestri said the allegations in the lawsuit are false.
“We look forward to defending our reputation,” he said.
The employee’s attorney said his client did not have a comment to make.