A former employee of fast-growing Dallas restaurant group Vandelay Hospitality is suing the company, alleging that it operates with a culture that is “shot through with racism, sexism, homophobia, and outright disdain for its employees.”
The suit was filed in Dallas County District Court on Monday, July 19 by Glenn Govias, a former general manager at Vandelay’s swanky Highland Park steakhouse Drake’s Hollywood. Govias alleges that the company engaged in racist activity directed at both its employees and customers, claiming that corporate managers at Vandelay would demand the firing of employees based on their race, gender, and physical attributes, resulting in comments like “fire the Mexican guy” or “fire the ugly girl” from top leadership.
The group’s restaurants, which include East Hampton Sandwich Company and Hudson House, would also allegedly reject reservations from potential diners who were perceived to be of “African-American, Middle Eastern, or Hispanic heritage” based on their names. Additionally, Govias alleges that he was fired from the company after refusing to engage in discriminatory hiring practices, claiming he was specifically being ordered to terminate “non-white and female employees.”
In a statement provided to Eater, Vandelay Hospitality denied Govias’s claims in the suit. “VHG strives to maintain a professional and rewarding work environment for all of its employees,” the statement reads. “The company vigorously disputes Mr. Govias’ allegations and trusts in the legal process to resolve these claims properly.”
The lawsuit comes amid a time of significant growth for Vandelay Hospitality, which recently announced plans to open a new restaurant called D.L. Mack’s in Dallas’s University Park neighborhood, and expand its Hamptons-style seafood spot Hudson House to Houston. The company has not yet responded to the lawsuit in court, and did not respond to a request for comment from Eater.
In the suit, Govias seeks damages in excess of $1 million.
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Update, 11:58 a.m.: This story has been updated to include a statement from Vandelay Hospitality.