An ex-line cook at Spago has filed a lawsuit against his former employer in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging wrongful termination, retaliation, a hostile work environment and failure to pay overtime.
Kevin Peralta said he was hired in 2013 and employed as a line cook for more than six years. In the lawsuit filed Thursday, Peralta alleged he had never received negative feedback or performance reviews but was terminated shortly after he requested leave for the birth of his daughter and began to complain about workplace violations.
A representative from the Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group declined to comment about the lawsuit.
Peralta claimed he was regularly harassed by management for his Guatemalan heritage and alleged that one member of the management team told him, "You Guatemalans are ghetto."
Another person in management allegedly made remarks to Peralta like, "Why are you looking at me like that with your stupid face?" The lawsuit alleges Peralta also was subjected to unwanted touching from that same person on at least one occasion.
The suit alleges Peralta regularly worked more than eight hours per day and 40 hours per week and was not paid overtime. He also alleged he was not permitted to take rest breaks nor the mandatory 30-minute meal break per five hours of work, as required by California law.
Peralta returned from family medical leave in June 2019 after the birth of his daughter. After that, Peralta claimed he was subjected to increasing harassment until he was terminated in August 2019. Peralta claims he has suffered "losses in compensation, earning capacity, humiliation, mental anguish and emotional distress" as a result of these actions.
The suit seeks compensatory as well as punitive damages.
Since it opened on Horn Avenue on the Sunset Strip in 1982, Spago has been one of Los Angeles' premier upscale dining destinations. Its current location, on Cañon Drive in Beverly Hills, has stood since 1997 (the original location closed in 2001). The restaurant's success propelled its young chef, Wolfgang Puck, to stardom, ushering in an era of celebrity chefs that continues to influence dining culture to this day.
The Austrian-born, Michelin-starred chef has faced lawsuits in the past. In 2016, Kimball Musk, brother of Tesla and SpaceX billionaire Elon Musk, sued Puck and alleged copyright infringement over Puck's fast casual concept the Kitchen. In 2013, a woman sued Puck after she was allegedly hit in the head with a water pitcher at Puck's now-closed restaurant the Source in Washington, D.C.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.