With the Academy Awards approaching and Wolfgang Puck preparing for Hollywood's biggest culinary event of the year, the Governor's Ball, attorneys for an ex-employee of the chef's namesake company announced that they've filed a lawsuit against Puck's corporate parent for alleged sexual harassment.
The plaintiff, 47-year-old Robert Bollinger, claims that he was discriminated against, called an anti-gay epithet, falsely accused of theft, and ultimately fired because of his sexual orientation.
The folks at Wolfgang Puck's parent company, ...
... Charlotte, North Carolina-based Compass Group, sent us this statement in response to the suit:
Our policy is not to comment about personnel matters or litigation. That said, everyone at Wolfgang Puck Catering, including the CEO, Carl Schuster, respects and values the individuality and diversity that each employee brings to the job. We prioritize efforts, at all levels of our organization, to maintain a working environment built on trust, tolerance and respect.
The claim was filed today in L.A. County Superior Court, Bollinger's attorney told us.
The suit alleges that, after making complaints about alleged overtime and tip violations to corporate bosses at Compass, and after Bollinger identified himself as being gay, harassment ensued for the onetime regional director of operations at Wolfgang Puck.
This was in 2012.
Among Bollinger's claims:
-He was "replaced in his position on the payroll" by a heterosexual woman.
-Wolfgang Puck CEO Carl Schuster told him that gay people "are too emotional," that homosexuality constitutes a "disgusting" lifestyle and gay people are "liars."
-Bollinger was falsely imprisoned at work.
The suit says that Bollinger was accused of theft, locked in a room against his will and interrogated by a "loss prevention" employee, and fired on Dec. 4, 2012 under the threat that the company would take a theft case to the District Attorney's office.
He was coerced into signing a statement saying he would repay any money stolen from the company, the suit says.
Bollinger says the theft allegation stemmed from normal expenses claimed at the behest of clients. The claim alleges that Bollinger's final pay was withheld for months.
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The suit says that charges were never filed and that Bollinger was ultimately given his back pay.
The ex-employee says the firing made it difficult for him to find new work and that he suffered distress, pain and suffering as a result of his experience at Wolfgang Puck.
No monetary amount was mentioned.