Fired restaurant server files discrimination suit against steakhouse

By Rhys Saunders | Oct 31, 2013

A 55-year-old restaurant server has filed a lawsuit against a Chicago steakhouse over allegations of age discrimination.

Christopher Dumont filed suit Oct. 24 in federal court against his former employer, Mastro’s Restaurants LLC, a Nevada-based company that owns Mastro’s Steakhouse at 520 N. Dearborn St.

He asserts that the restaurant manager forced him to take fewer shifts and work in a private dining area that afforded less tips, while giving younger servers more hours in positions where they earned more gratuity.

Dumont is seeking compensatory damages for lost wages, back and future pay, impairment of power to earn money, physical pain, fear of stroke, and emotional distress and humiliation, according to the suit.

He filed a claim of discrimination on Oct. 11, 2012 with the Employment Opportunity Commission and the Illinois Department of Human Rights, alleging age discrimination and retaliation. The commission issues a notice of dismissal and rights on July 26.

Dumont was hired as a server for Mastro’s Steakhouse on Aug. 15, 2010, just two months before its October opening, according to his suit. At that time, Dumont asserts, he was the oldest employee and the oldest or second oldest server, as well as being among the most experienced.

He believes that the restaurant’s general manager, Joseph Taylor, wanted only younger employees to work at the steakhouse, but corporate officials made the decision to hire Dumont.

Dumont’s “belief is based in part upon the managerial actions of Taylor subsequent to (Dumont’s) acceptance of employment at the restaurant,” the suit states. “While (Dumont) was hired to be a server on the main floor of the restaurant, after his training he was immediately assigned by Taylor to the private dining facilities of the restaurant.”

Because the private dining area offers structured banquet events with predetermined menus, Dumont’s suit alleges that servers there cannot receive increased tip income.

“In general, servers assigned to the private dining received less income than servers on the main restaurant floors,” the suit states.

Dumont soon discovered that the private dining staff was significantly older on average than the servers assigned to the main floors. He also asserts that Taylor instructed the private dining area manager, Kelly McGrath, to schedule Dumont to work fewer hours than younger employees.

“Additionally, Taylor periodically intervened with McGrath to order that younger employees assigned to the main floors of the restaurant be assigned to extra shifts in private dining to increase their income, while withholding from assigning (Dumont) to the available shifts,” the suit states.

Dumont claims that he complained during the summer of 2012, after which time his managers allegedly began retaliating against him by falsely accusing Dumont of misconduct in his duties and reducing his hours. The aggravation caused Dumont health problems and eventual hospitalization, the suit asserts.

After he was released from the hospital, Dumont’s suit states he was told he would have to undergo a performance improvement plan that included 45 days of retraining when he would be paid a very low salary.

Dumont, according to the suit, was also asked to agree to execute a document that contained his admission of the allegedly false charges of misconduct, as well as his release of restaurant employees of all claims he made against them.

He refused to comply, and was fired the day after filing a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Illinois Department of Human Rights, according to the suit.

Dumont is represented by Stephen F. Boulton of Boulton & Associates in Chicago.

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