Earlier this week, it was announced that the French Laundry—the Napa Valley-based restaurant owned by chef Thomas Keller—had once again earned a coveted three star rating from Michelin. The news marked a big win following a scathing critique of Keller’s other restaurant, Per Se, earlier this year in the New York Times.
Unfortunately for Keller, those stars are more or less where the good news ends.
According to Wine Business, Keller, the French Laundry, and the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group are all being sued by Vanessa Scott-Allen, a former employee who claims she was denied a serving position after revealing she was pregnant. The lawsuit was filed last month in Napa, California, with Scott-Allen seeking $5 million in damages for fraud and deceit, sex discrimination, and violation of pregnancy disability leave laws, among other charges.
Tough Scott-Allen worked as a server at Per Se for roughly five years, she says she decided to transfer to the French Laundry after meeting with general manager (and co-defendant) Michael Minnillo during a trip to Napa Valley.
After the restaurant group approved her transfer, Scott-Allen says she uprooted her family and moved across the country for her new job. Keller allegedly hugged and congratulated the server, but when she finally got to California, her pregnancy and maternity leave plans quickly became a point of contention.
Scott-Allen claims her start date at the French Laundry was first pushed back from April 1 to April 4. According to the report, the general manager then told her there were no longer any positions available at the restaurant, though the lawsuit claims there were still three jobs open in the front-of-house.
The Thomas Keller Restaurant Group did not immediately reply to First We Feast’s request for comment.