Chef Thomas Keller’s woes don’t seem to be abating. After a scathing New York Times review for his New York City restaurant Per Se in January (and a similar review from Eater), Keller, as well as The French Laundry in Napa Valley, and the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group are all being sued for pregnancy discrimination.
Filed last month in Napa Superior Court, the Napa Valley Register reports that the lawsuit alleges that Vanessa Scott-Allen was prevented from working at The French Laundry because of her pregnancy. According to the Napa Valley Register, the complaint alleges that the restaurant group had approved a transfer of her job from Per Se to The French Laundry, but when TFL found out about her pregnancy, they terminated the offer — after she had left her five-year-old serving position at Per Se and moved her family out to California.
According to the Napa Valley Register, Scott-Allen claims that after a visit to TFL in January when general manager Michael Minnillo (also named in the suit) told her that the restaurant “would love” to have her work there, she approached her Per Se manager Antonio Begonja about wanting to transfer, and notified him of her pregnancy. Reportedly, the managers worked out the transfer, and Scott-Allen said she was set to work at TFL starting on April 1, before which time she terminated her lease in New York, bought a car, and found a place to live in California.
Scott-Allen’s start date was allegedly pushed back to April 4, when she claims that TFL manager Olivia Wallace asked her several questions about her pregnancy and plans for maternity leave, such as her due date, how long she would work until giving birth, and how long she planned for maternity leave. After that encounter, Scott-Allen was told the position was no longer available, nor was any other position (despite there being three positions open), according to the Napa Valley Register’s account of the lawsuit.
The Napa Valley Register reports that on April 21, Scott-Allen filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and received a notice of case closure and right to sue, after which she filed the lawsuit in Napa Superior Court on September 26. The article states that she is seeking $5 million in damages for fraud and deceit, sex discrimination, violation of pregnancy disability leave law, negligent misrepresentation, breach of implied contract, wrongful termination, failure to prevent discrimination, and violations of labor codes and the California Family Rights Act. A case management conference is scheduled for March 7, 2017. Scott-Allen is reportedly demanding a jury trial.
Eater SF has reached out to both The Thomas Keller Restaurant Group and Scott-Allen’s attorney for comment, with no immediate response. Stay tuned for more details.