Robert Garmon and Rodney Spinato were the only black bartenders working for Wolfgang Puck Catering's Dallas operation. They were, as they describe in a discrimination lawsuit filed today, "excellent, hard-working employees who were wrongfully terminated because of their race."
What led them to this conclusion was not the fact that they were the operations only black bartenders but a "racially motivated verbal attack" delivered by a coworker and the disparate punishment that followed. According to their complaint, an employee named Max, who is white, launched into an unprovoked tirade on May 2, calling them stupid and worthless and suggesting they should be replaced by Mexicans. (A message left with Wolfgang Puck Catering has not been returned.)
"The connotation of this offensive language is that African Americans were such bad workers and lacking in intelligence that their jobs should be given to Mexicans," the suit states.
Garmon and Spinato say they briefly argued back and were told that they were being suspended without pay. In two more days, they say, they were fired. That might not have been so offensive had Max received the same punishment, but he didn't. He didn't get so much as a slap on the wrist, the suit claims.
"White employees are treated differently," the lawsuit says. Garmon and Spinato's firings were "completely unfounded and constituted a significantly more severe punishment than levied against white employees who engaged in similar or worse activities."
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At which point the lawsuit enumerates, by name, the sins of their former colleagues.
In addition to the actions of Max referenced above, Tim (white male) was caught drinking on the job and smuggling in his personal liquor to the job site in violation of TABC rules and regulations. (Tim) was written up, but was not terminated. On information and belief, (Tim) continues to drink on the job, but has never been fired. Max (white male) and Gerald (white male) and other white bartenders have repeatedly been warned and written-up because of policy violations and misconduct with customers. They have all been allowed to keep their jobs. On information and belief, (Gerald) has also been caught drunk and/or under the influence of other intoxicating substances on the job. (Gerald) was not punished or fired.
Corey (white male) openly uses chewing tobacco behind the bar and in front of customers in violation of company policy. Although management was made aware of the policy violations, no punishment was ever levied. (Corey) is still employed.
In September 2011, Chelsea (white female) was promoted to manager even though numerous witnesses had reported to management that she regularly sstole money from the register. (Corey) was never written up or suspended for her actions.
On or about April 23, 2012, Molly (white female) called the Mexican American members of the cleaning crew "Fat ass lazy Mexicans" for no apparent reason whatsoever. Ms. Miller made these derogatory statements in the presence of the manager who proceeded to laugh. (Molly) was not written up or punished in any way for her actions.
Given all that, "Wolfgang Puck Catering's termination of Garmon and Spinato for allegedly arguing with Williams is nothing but a pretext for racial discrination."
Garmon and Spinato are seeking lost wages, unspecified damages, and orders to ensure the company complies with state labor laws and federal anti-discrimination laws.