A former employee of Thomas Keller's restaurant group is taking Keller and other company employees to court this week after she lost her job three years ago shortly after they found out she was pregnant.
28-year-old Vanessa Scott-Allen, through her attorney, says she hopes that her case will help bring attention to the "culture of misogyny in fine dining," and the trial starts Monday in Napa County Superior Court, as the Associated Press reports. Scott-Allen had been promoted over five years while working at Per Se in New York until she became a "captain" or head waiter. According to the lawsuit, she then visited California in January 2016 with her husband, and stopped in at the French Laundry in Yountville, where she spoke with a general manager and secured a verbal offer to transfer there if and when the couple relocated to the Bay Area.
Scott-Allen and her attorney say that not long afterward, when she had already gotten paperwork started to move from Per Se to The French Laundry, she found out she was pregnant, and then proceeded to inform French Laundry manager Michael Minnillo of her pregnancy. Internal emails at the restaurant group, which appear to have to been obtained by Scott-Allen's attorney in the suit, suggest that employees got Scott-Allen to resign from Per Se and then reneged on the offer of the new job at The French Laundry.
Per the AP:
“Apparently she is pregnant,” Minnillo wrote in a March 1, 2016, email to the company’s head of human resources, cited in court filings. “She never mentioned this to me. I am confused how to proceed.”
“Well, unfortunately not much we can do,” Julie Secviar, head of HR for the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, replied in an email, cited in court filings. “What was committed verbally or in writing?”
Scott-Allen is now suing for $5 million in damages.