Thomas Keller is in hot water (again). Napa Valley’s famed The French Laundry has been slapped with a $5 million sex discrimination lawsuit, alleging that the restaurant and its owner, Keller, denied a woman a job because she was pregnant.
According to a complaint filed in September in Napa County Superior Court, Vanessa Scott-Allen left her position as a server at Keller’s restaurant Per Se, in New York City, to transfer to The French Laundry. But once she told her future bosses that she was pregnant, she claims she was “discriminated and retaliated against, terminated, falsely promised and then denied a job,” reports Wine Business.
Scott-Allen is now suing Thomas Keller, Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, and Michael Minnillo (general manager of The French Laundry) for $5 million in damages and attorney fees.
According to the complaint, surfaced by Wine Business, Scott-Allen moved to California from New York shortly after being offered a transfer to the Napa Valley restaurant. (Before leaving, she claims she told Keller himself, who offered her congratulations and a hug). She was allegedly told to report for her first day of work on April 4, at which time she would meet the entire management team of The French Laundry.
Instead, Scott-Allen claims she met with only one manager, “who asked her about her maternity leave plans.” She was then told her position was no longer available, despite the restaurant having three job openings at the time.
Neither the lawyers representing Scott-Allen nor the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group have responded to requests for comment.
Though his restaurants have long been some of the most highly-lauded in the country, Keller’s ego has taken a hit recently, most notably when Per Se was hit with a two-star review by New York Times food critic Pete Wells (which followed Eater critic Ryan Sutton’s own two-star review). Keller eventually responded to the review in an interview with Town & Country, saying: "Maybe we were complacent....I learned that, maybe, as a team we were a little bit too arrogant, our egos too exposed.”
• Thomas Keller and The French Laundry Reportedly Sued for Pregnancy Discrimination [ESF]
• Woman Files Sex Discrimination Suit Against The French Laundry [Wine Business]
• The French Laundry, Thomas Keller Named in Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit [Napa Valley Register]