Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Lawsuit alleges ‘obnoxiously racist behavior’ at Eddie Merlot’s restaurant in Bloomfield Hills

Posted By on Tue, Jan 11, 2022 at 9:49 AM

click to enlarge Eddie Merlot's restaurant in Bloomfield Hills. - GOOGLE MAPS
  • Google Maps
  • Eddie Merlot's restaurant in Bloomfield Hills.

Six employees at Eddie Merlot’s restaurant in Bloomfield Hills gave the general manager an ultimatum: Stop the racist behavior or they will quit.

The behavior continued, so the disgusted employees — a Black sous chef and five white co-workers — walked out.

That’s according to a lawsuit filed against the restaurant and the general manager Curtis Nordeen.

The lawsuit claims Nordeen joked about shoving watermelon down Black children’s throats, segregated Black and white customers, referred to African American customers as “those” people, mocked Black women for wearing hats on Sunday following church, regularly accused Black customers of being on drugs, and ordered Black waiters to serve African American customers.

James Gaines. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • James Gaines.
On July 3, the sous chef, James Gaines, and his co-workers told Nordeen they would walk out unless he fixed the racist culture at the restaurant. According to the lawsuit, Nordeen refused to change his behavior and instead offered the employees a raise to stay.

“The fact that Mr. Nordeen felt comfortable openly displaying such obnoxiously racist behavior shows that he felt protected by Eddie Merlot’s corporate management,” attorney Jon Marko of Marko Law PLLC said in a statement Tuesday. “Mr. Nordeen openly instituted Jim Crow-era segregation within his restaurant and never feared consequences from corporate management.”

Attorney Zach Runyan said the restaurant appeared to side with Nordeen, despite what was at stake.

“The severity of the issue is illustrated by the fact that during a historic labor shortage that is directly impacting the restaurant industry, Mr. Nordeen let several employees quit rather than simply stop acting racist,” Runyan said. “Eddie Merlot’s should be more upset than anyone by Mr. Nordeen’s behavior, but that does not appear to be the case.”

Eddie Merlot’s was not immediately available for comment. Marko will provide more details at a news conference at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

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