A California judge has ordered that the owners of Napa Valley’s vaunted French Laundry restaurant return to court for a retrial of a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed by a former server for the company. The case filed against the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, the namesake chef’s group that owns both the Michelin-starred French Laundry and New York’s posh Per Se, had been dismissed this past summer, citing insufficient evidence. Judge Victoria Wood now says there wasn’t enough evidence to justify the jury’s verdict, and that there was misconduct by both the restaurant’s counsel and jury. “It is obvious to the court that plaintiff met her burden of proving it was more likely than not that she was subjected to employment discrimination on account of her pregnancy,” Wood wrote in the court order.
Vanessa Scott-Allen sued the restaurant group for more than $1 million in 2016 after she was denied a transfer from Per Se to French Laundry, where managers learned she was pregnant only weeks before. Her attorneys claimed the company she had been with for five years betrayed her, while the defense successfully argued it was simply a miscommunication and she was never meant to be offered the new position. The restaurant group is reportedly planning to appeal Wood’s decision in order to reinstate the original not-guilty verdict. Wood’s ruling stated that some jurors discussed evidence and announced their decision internally before deliberations began. The ruling says jurors also talked about the absence of Scott-Allen’s husband during the proceedings when they were specifically instructed not to consider it.