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Chef Called Waitstaff 'Retards,' Mocked Server With Hearing Aid, Suit Says

By Maya Rajamani | February 10, 2017 3:58pm | Updated on February 13, 2017 8:56am
 Le Rivage at 340 W. 46th St., between Eighth and Ninth avenues.
Le Rivage at 340 W. 46th St., between Eighth and Ninth avenues.
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DNAinfo/Maya Rajamani

HELL'S KITCHEN — The chef at a French eatery on Restaurant Row repeatedly told a group of servers he could replace them with younger employees, “mocked” one of them for wearing a hearing aid and often shouted that another was “too old,” a new lawsuit claims.

Six servers over the age of 40 who worked at Le Rivage on West 46th Street up until last year filed the suit against chef and co-owner Paul Denamiel, his father/co-owner Marcel Denamiel and the restaurant itself in Manhattan federal court Wednesday.

The suit claims Paul Denamiel “created a hostile work environment in which [the servers] were subjected to constant screaming and insults about their age.”

The restaurant also allegedly paid the servers less than the required minimum wage, failed to pay overtime and didn’t give the servers weekly wage statements.

A few times a week, the chef would tell the servers he could replace them with younger employees, the suit says.

“Lots of young people are looking for work now,” he said around Sept. 28 of last year, according to the filing. “Young people are hungry for these jobs.”

The chef would often yell insults like, “You are too old” and, “You don’t hear well” at one server, and “mocked” another in front of customers for wearing a hearing aid.

He and his father would also call the waitstaff “morons," "stupid," and "retards" in front of customers, the suit notes.

Occasionally, Marcel Denamiel would allegedly “corner” the servers and threaten them.

“I was in the war, you don’t know who I know, you piece of s--t,” Marcel Denamiel once said, according to the suit.

When one of the female servers started losing her hair due to stress in May 2016, Paul Denamiel “made fun of the bald spot on her head and began referring to [her] by his dog’s name, Jojo,” the suit claims, noting that the woman had a panic attack after arriving at work in December.

After the servers included in the suit resigned from their jobs last year, Le Rivage allegedly replaced them with servers who are in their 20s and 30s.

The servers — a few of whom had worked at the eatery for more than 20 years — are seeking unpaid wages, unspecified damages and attorneys’ fees, the suit says.

The Denamiel family has owned the eatery at 340 W. 46th St., between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, since 1984, according to the New York Post.

Paul Denamiel told the paper that employees who filed the suit were “stubborn to change,” adding that he and his father have been working to “rejuvenate the restaurant.”

He and Le Rivage didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.