Ben Kochman, Denis Slattery, NY Daily News, February 27, 2015
Nearly all of the black waitstaff at a Manhattan TGI Friday’s were replaced with light-skinned workers–mostly Hispanics–when the chain closed a busy Midtown outpost and opened a new store a block away, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in Bronx Supreme Court.
Just one black staff member from the eatery near Penn Station was rehired when the company moved to a new location one block east on 34th St. in December, ex-employees charge in the class action discrimination suit.
When the workers protested, a restaurant manager told one of them that he preferred Hispanic staffers because they “work harder,” the suit alleges.
“It was their opinion that black people were lazy,” charged plaintiff Lisa Baker, 48, a waitress who says her old manager told her that her job serving guests was unavailable at the new location. “We weren’t even given a chance.”
Managers openly referred to the old location as “the ghetto store,” or the “black Friday’s,” and wanted to rid themselves of that reputation, the suit alleges.
Former employees said they were promised a fair shot at reapplying for jobs at the new restaurant, a 15,000-square-foot franchise on 34th St., but never heard from their old employers.
Lawyers for the former waitstaff are seeking $500,000 for each employee–a total of $5 million–for “loss of wages, emotional distress and punitive damages.”