A former server at restaurateur Stephen Starr’s pan-Asian clubstaurant Buddakan is suing the restaurant group for discrimination — claiming that he was fired for being HIV-positive.
Jack Mountford filed the lawsuit last week alleging that new management at the Meatpacking District hot spot treated him with “hostility” when they found out about his HIV-positive status, according to the lawsuit. They then claimed that Mountford charged a diner twice for a bill and fired him last June, although the former server says he frequently “dominated sales contests” and had never made an overcharge mistake previously, the suit alleges.
He is asking for unspecified damages and names Starr’s restaurant group in the suit, as the Post first reported.
In an email statement to Eater, Starr’s general counsel Melissa MacLeod said they “totally reject the allegations” and plan to defend the lawsuit in court. MacLeod writes:
We are confident we will be vindicated in court proceedings. Plaintiff previously made this complaint to the EEOC and the EEOC dismissed the action because it was unable to conclude that the information established a violation of the law. We are very sensitive to employee's rights under the law and are diligent in ensuring that we comply with those obligations.
Mountford has been HIV-positive since 2010 and told management about his medical needs when he started working at the restaurant in 2013 so that he could occasionally fly home to Florida to see his doctors, the lawsuit complaint says. The restaurant also allowed him breaks to take medication at specific times. After two years, he was promoted.
But after a negative review of the restaurant in 2015, management at the restaurant changed hands. The suit claims that new supervisors allegedly “appeared mortified” and looked on “in horror” after finding out about Mountford’s health. Another manager said that Mountford’s health was “detrimental” to job performance, according to the suit.
He was ultimately terminated in June 2016.
It hasn’t been a good week for discrimination lawsuits in the NYC restaurant world. Last Wednesday, a former pastry chef at Babbo sued Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, alleging that managers called him gay slurs.