The U.S. government has taken legal action against Bouchon Las Vegas, a restaurant associated with acclaimed chef Thomas Keller, alleging widespread sexual harassment of both male and female employees by managers. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit, asserting that the restaurant was aware or should have been aware of the pervasive and ongoing harassment by managers since 2018, resulting in a hostile work environment.
Thomas Keller’s restaurant group, the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. However, Thomas Keller himself is not personally implicated in the legal action, and there has been no immediate response from his company to the allegations.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Las Vegas and is one of three other sexual harassment lawsuits filed by the EEOC against restaurants in the Las Vegas area on the same day. The restaurant industry has faced increased scrutiny regarding sexual harassment issues, especially during the #MeToo movement.
The EEOC detailed the misconduct at Bouchon Las Vegas, including sexual advances, sexually explicit comments, and unwanted advances, predominantly by male managers. Examples provided include asking female employees to engage in oral sex in inappropriate locations and even physically throwing objects like ice at them.
The EEOC also alleged that the restaurant retaliated against employees who reported harassment. One such victim mentioned in the complaint is Carol Zavala, a former hostess, who claimed her manager engaged in physical misconduct, leaving her with no option but to quit in April 2019 after filing a police report.
The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages for Zavala and other victims, along with an injunction to prevent violations of Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Keller’s restaurant group operates ten establishments in various locations, including California, New York, and Miami, with two of its restaurants, The French Laundry in Napa Valley and Per Se in New York City, boasting three Michelin stars.
The case is officially titled EEOC v KVP LP et al and is being heard in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada under case number 23-01308.