Wrongful Termination Suit Allowed against NYC's "21" Club

March 10, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A New York state judge has allowed three French waiters at the ultra-famous Manhattan bistro "21" to pursue their lawsuit charging they were fired in the midst of anti-French fervor.

The suit against “21” and its co-defendant owner Orient-Express Hotels, charged that the company made up allegations of drinking on the job or other “acts of malfeasance” to justify terminating the three workers, all of whom are French nationals in their 60s who had worked there for at least 10 years, the New York Law Journal reported.

The plaintiffs, Rene Bordet, Yves Thepault and Jean Claude Lesbre, all claim they were let go in 2004 or 2005 as part of “an environment rife with anti-French sentiment” under the restaurant’s director of operations Jeffrey Sacchet, according to the suit.

“For example, Sacchet expressed glee over his perception that President Bush hated the French,” the plaintiffs claimed in the suit. “In addition, both Sacchet and [assistant manager Chris] Haarsgaard believed, and expressed their belief, that the French have a propensity, unlike other groups, to consume wine and, as a result, suspected that Bordet had often been impaired and under the influence of alcohol while at work.”

The two managers also “repeatedly made fun of Bordet’s French accent” and Sacchet “repeatedly referred to Bordet’s French national origin in a derogatory manner,” according to the complaint.

The defendants asked Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich to throw out the suit, alleging among other things that the waiters’ collective bargaining agreement compelled arbitration. Kornreich denied the request.

“When giving the words of the (Collective Bargaining) Agreement their ‘plain meaning,’ it is clear that arbitration ‘may’ occur at the petitioner’s option or mutual agreement of the parties,” she held in Bordet v. 21 Club, 108516/05. “Neither situation exists here.”