Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster Hit With Wage Theft Lawsuit

Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster Hit With Wage Theft Lawsuit

April 2, 2018
April 13, 2018
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A black former employee of Red Rooster, a restaurant located in the heart of Harlem that serves comfort food celebrating the roots of American cuisine, claims that the restaurant and its owner, food network personality Marcus Samuelsson, discriminated against him after he was terminated “for completely fabricated reasons.” The employee, who was the only African-American male bartender at the restaurant, specifically claims that he was terminated for allegedly failing to use a jigger to moderate his drink pouring.  This termination occurred just two days after he requested protected family and medical leave to care for his ailing mother. According to the lawsuit, the restaurant’s reason for terminating the bartender is false, pre-textual, and motivated on the basis of his race and his protected request to care for his sick mother. The former employee claims the restaurant does not have a policy regarding the use of jiggers, and that other employees of the restaurant routinely poured drinks without using a jigger without discipline.  

The lawsuit also alleges that Red Rooster cheated the bartender, and other similarly situated employees, out of minimum and overtime wages in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The lawsuit claims that the restaurant routinely shaved 30 minutes from the bartender’s time for meal breaks, despite the fact that he hardly ever took meal breaks during his workday. The employee seeks an award of unspecified damages, including back pay, front pay, emotional distress damages, and punitive damages.  

Red Rooster is located in a largely African-American community, and its celebrity owner has publicly commented on the crude realities that African-Americans face in the restaurant industry. According to the restaurant’s website, the restaurant was named after “the legendary Harlem speakeasy that attracted neighborhood folk, jazz greats, authors, politicians and some of the most noteworthy figures of the 20th century such as Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Nat King Cole and James Baldwin.”


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