MEATPACKING DISTRICT — A manager at a popular French bistro that’s been accused of discriminating against customers based on race and appearance told one of the restaurant’s bartenders he "looks like a f----t” and a “gay porn star,” a new lawsuit claims.
Bartender Terrance McCleveland, who is currently employed by Little West 12th Street eatery Bagatelle, was starting his shift at the restaurant on Dec. 27, 2015, when a manager accused him of wearing “Barbie T-shirts,” the suit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court says.
After calling McCleveland out in front of several employees, the manager — who isn’t named in the suit — filled out an incident report saying the same things about the bartender and posted it inside the restaurant, the suit notes.
The incident report the manager posted is included in the suit.
“After this incident report had been hung up in the employee area, other employees… began to degrade, harass, ostracize and humiliate [McCleveland] based upon the employee incident report,” the suit charges.
The restaurant investigated the incident, but determined that there hadn’t been any “wrongful conduct,” the claim adds.
McCleveland, who meets with a therapist once a week due to “the continued abuse and humiliation,” is seeking more than $1 million in damages, along with the cost of legal fees.
His attorney, Kevin Faga, told DNAinfo New York it was “sad and disturbing to see such conduct in today’s day and age, especially a European company… from a country like France that counts [itself] as being such a progressive nation.”
The action comes less than a month after two servers hit the eatery with their own suit in federal court claiming Bagatelle “assigned [them] to work outside where only the ‘homosexuals’ would work,” favored its French servers, and chose to ignore sexual harassment in the workplace.
One of the servers, Renato Barreto, claims servers and supervisors at Bagatelle frequently groped him and rubbed up against him while he tried to serve food, but his manager “ignored each and every complaint.”
Staff at the restaurant, meanwhile, frequently referred to server David Kant as “Pede" — a French slang word “specifically used to describe ‘f----ts and/or homosexual pedophiles,” the lawsuit says.
Both servers were assigned to what was referred to by staff as the restaurant’s “Ghetto Station” designated for African-American and minority patrons, which didn’t provide enough seating to keep those customers from returning to the restaurant, the suit charges.
A photo "of [Bagatelle's] efforts to discriminate against African American patrons" that is included in the suit.
In addition, Bagatelle forced its servers and hosts to use “code words” to discriminate against customers, including “DNA” — meaning “Do Not Accommodate” — for minority patrons, and “BO” for “patrons they believed to be ugly or unfit to sit in a table at the restaurant."
“... ‘DNA’... was used specifically for minorities so that they could be placed at the back of the restaurant where they could not be seen, or simply have their reservations canceled because of the color of their skin,” the suit claims.
Barreto and Kant are seeking unspecified damages.
“Certainly, we expect Bagatelle and all other restaurants in New York City to judge patrons by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin.... And certainly I am looking to make sure that the law works for my clients, who deserve justice,” attorney Paul Liggieri, who represents the two servers, said Tuesday.
Bagatelle's co-owner Remi Laba on Tuesday said the restaurant's mission is "to treat all of our patrons from around the world to the same unforgettable dining and entertainment experience."
"We do not seat patrons based on their race or tolerate discrimination on any basis," he said. "While we don’t comment on pending litigation, we intend to defend ourselves and look forward to clearing our name in this matter."