A group of 13 Chinese employees fired from their positions at fancy midtown restaurant Le Colonial are now suing their former employer alleging discrimination and retaliation. The group of workers claim that they were forced to work in unacceptable and offensive conditions. The complaint alleges that as employees, they were exposed to excessive heat throughout their shifts, they were not allowed into air-conditioned areas during their breaks, they were restricted to use only one bathroom, if they wanted to eat more than once during their typical 10-hour shifts, they were forced to eat their meal in the bathroom stall. One employee was told that his food was “cooked for animals” and a 61-year old man with a back injury was forced to stand for excessive periods of time.
The group of workers ranging in ages thirty to sixty-one is alleging that after making numerous complaints about their harsh working conditions, they were fired. Their claim thus alleges that they were victims of discrimination based on their race and age and that after addressing their superior with complaints they were unjustly fired. Under New York law, it is illegal to mistreat one’s employees on account of their race, gender or religion. Furthermore, civil rights laws protect employees who complain about harassment and/or discrimination issues or deplorable conditions in the workplace from suffering from retaliation. Means of retaliation can include a demotion, poor performance evaluations, unwanted transfers, menial job assignments or as alleged in this circumstance, termination.
As reported on their website, Ken Kimerling, legal director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, noted that workers are “treated in this way in part because the employer thinks that they won’t fight back because of language and maybe even [immigration] status issues.” But that doesn’t seem to be stopping this group. In addition to the complaint against New York State, these former Le Colonial employees are also considering filing a federal lawsuit for wage violations.