SAN FRANCISCO — A former employee of celebrated chef Thomas Keller is suing him and his three-star Michelin restaurants — Per Se in New York and the French Laundry in California — for discrimination, saying she was denied a job transfer and ultimately let go because she was pregnant.
Vanessa Scott-Allen is seeking $5 million in damages for allegations that include sex discrimination and violation of pregnancy disability leave and says she hopes her trial, which started Monday, will draw attention to a “culture of misogyny in fine dining,” said her attorney, Carla Minnard.
“This is one of the last bastions where it is OK for women to be discriminated against,” Minnard said ahead of the trial in Napa County Superior Court. She said the case will highlight antiquated traditions in the fine dining world where men are favored for high-paying “front of the house” jobs and seen as more suitable to interact with high-paying guests. In the case of Scott-Allen, “they found out she was pregnant and figured out a way to backpedal on” a job transfer, she said.