A Black former employee of a suburban Detroit Red Robin has filed a suit alleging she found a razor blade in her food after she complained to managers at the restaurant that her co-workers frequently used racial epithets in her presence.
In the suit filed in Oakland County Circuit Court on June 3, 26-year-old Zenarra James alleges she was subjected to racial discrimination and a hostile work environment while employed at the Madison Heights, Michigan, location of the restaurant earlier this year.
The suit names the Red Robin location and the Farmington Hills-based Ansara Restaurant Group as defendants and seeks $25,000 in front pay, back pay, and damages following the alleged intentional infliction of emotional distress and direct negligence.
In the legal claim obtained by Atlanta Black Star, James had worked at the Red Robin on and off for about two years but had recently returned to work in February.
James, who was required to walk in and out of the kitchen constantly as a server, says she often heard white kitchen staff using various forms of the N-word towards to one another in the kitchen and dish room.
James approached her three white managers and told them the comments were making her uncomfortable. The managers suggested a meeting with the kitchen staff to clarify that the language was inappropriate but the meeting never happened, the suit says.
After making the complaint, a male member of the kitchen staff approached James aggressively, saying he “knew you snitched on me,” her claim states.
When James approached the managers again, they said the employee had anger problems and that she should leave him alone.
General manager Boston Price is alleged to have told James the issues would be addressed at several staff meetings but James is not aware if those meetings occurred. The problems seemed to stop for a few weeks but started up again around April 11.
James wrote a note to one of the employees who had used the N-word that said the language was making her uncomfortable, and gave it to a manager who said he would talk to the employee.
The next day, at the end of her shift, James asked another kitchen worker to make her a chicken salad to go. When she bit into the salad at home, there was a sharp piece of metal that appeared to be a razor blade lodged in a piece of chicken, according to her court filing.
James sent Boston a message via Facebook, informing him about what happened and saying she would not be returning to work. He said he’d talked to the employees and thought he made an impact but hadn’t taken further steps. Boston suggested the piece of metal had fallen into the food from a vegetable cutter, James claims.
But according to the suit, the razor blade was found “directly in the chicken, in a place that it must have been intentionally placed.” The salad was also prepared by friends of the employee who said he knew James had snitched on him.
Atlanta Black Star reached out to the Red Robin location by phone and, after requesting to speak to a manager, was transferred to a man who said he had no comment on the litigation.