In 2016, a lawsuit was filed against Thomas Keller and his restaurant group by a former employee who alleged that the company denied her a job because she was pregnant. The trial opens today in Napa Superior Court, as the plaintiff Vanessa Scott-Allen seeks $5 million in damages.
Scott-Allen, formerly a high-ranking server at Keller’s New York City fine dining outpost Per Se, alleges sex discrimination and violation of pregnancy disability leave. The lawsuit alleges that Scott-Allen was prevented from working at The French Laundry after managers, including general manager (and a defendant named in the suit) Michael Minnillo, became aware of her pregnancy during a job transfer from Per Se to the French Laundry.
Before Scott-Allen moved from New York, she signed a “Notice of Resignation” that management told her was a standard part of the transfer process, effectively terminating her position within the Thomas Keller Group at Per Se; she then lost her health insurance and was unable to see doctors for check-ups during the first trimester of her pregnancy, the AP reports. The offer for the transfer to the French Laundry was then terminated — after she had left her five-year-old front of the house position and moved to California.
Scott-Allen reportedly demanded a jury trial; her attorney Carla Minnard says her client hopes to bring attention to a “culture of misogyny in fine dining.”
Keller’s group owns and operates the French Laundry, Per Se, La Calenda, locations of Bouchon and Bouchon Bakery, Surf Club in Miami, and the newly opened Tak Room in Hudson Yards (the subject of a one-star review by Eater NY critic Ryan Sutton). Per the AP, Keller’s spokesman Pierre Rougier said the company cannot comment on pending litigation. Stay tuned for the outcome.