P.F. Chang’s China Bistro in Kansas City has settled a racial discrimination lawsuit with a former waitress whose claims were slated to go to trial this week in Independence.
Plaintiff Janeris Roston, a black woman, had alleged restaurant management insisted that she serve the restaurant’s black customers when white servers wouldn’t. Roston also claimed P.F. Chang’s employees subjected her to derogatory comments and images, and when she complained her hours were significantly reduced.
Roston, 30, of Lenexa, Kan., ultimately resigned in 2008 from her job at the chain restaurant’s location on the Country Club Plaza. She filed the racial discrimination and retaliation lawsuit in October 2009 in Jackson County Circuit Court after receiving a right to sue letter from the Missouri Human Rights Commission.
“On a nearly daily basis, Caucasian servers openly opposed serving minority customers,” Roston wrote in her complaint to the commission.
After discussing concerns with a black supervisor and filing complaints with the corporate office, she wrote, “My scheduled times were changed after I had already clocked in to make it appear as though I were late. I suffered emotionally at the Kansas City location because of the daily discrimination.”
Defense attorney J. Randall Coffey, of Fisher & Phillips in Kansas City, didn’t return a phone call before press time, but the restaurant and co-defendant employees denied the allegations in court documents.
In an answer to the lawsuit, Coffey contended that employment decisions regarding Roston were made for “legitimate, non-discriminatory and non-retaliatory reasons.”
When contacting the Kansas City restaurant for details on the settlement, manager Tony Hayman referred a reporter to regional manager Mark Kirke, who is a co-defendant in the suit. Kirke didn’t immediately return a message left on his cell phone.
Plaintiff’s attorney Kirk Holman, of Holman Schiavone in Kansas City, didn’t return a phone call before press time Thursday, but in court documents the attorney described a list of alleged incidents of racial discrimination at the restaurant.
Shortly after transferring from the Palo Alto, Calif., location in April 2008, Roston claims that two white employees showed her an offensive drawing of the Ku Klux Klan and a black person. Employees later showed her a hole in the basement wall and told her it was the “slave tunnel,” she claimed.
She also accused a restaurant manager of saying that his favorite movie was “Roots, the movie where all the black people are whipped,” according to the lawsuit.
After complaining, she claimed she received disciplinary write-ups and was assigned to the smallest and least profitable section of the restaurant.
The plaintiff had sought punitive damages in the lawsuit that Judge Michael Manners was expected to dismiss this week.
The case is Roston v. P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc. et al., 0916-CV33143.