Suit: Former Rouge Chef Says He Was Called the N-Word During Employment

Rouge owner Rob Wasserman tells us he looks "forward to the day when the actual truth comes out."

Rouge in Rittenhouse Square (photo by Megan DiTrolio)

Rouge in Rittenhouse Square (photo by Megan DiTrolio)

Rouge on Rittenhouse Square is one of the more storied restaurants in Philadelphia. Originally opened by the also storied restaurateur Neil Stein, it remains the see-and-be-seen Rittenhouse spot (though you could also make an argument for Parc) that it was when profiled in Philadelphia magazine in 2006 by Jessica Pressler. Well, on Wednesday, Rouge was sued for racial discrimination in federal court by a former sous chef.

In his lawsuit, Sterling David says he worked as a sous chef and dishwasher for Rouge from June 2013 until December 2013. He claims that he was the only African American working in the kitchen during his shifts and that he was “subjected to discrimination and harassment on the basis of his race, and to retaliation for complaints about the unequal treatment he received.”

David says that the unfair treatment began almost immediately upon the start of his employment at Rouge. According to his lawsuit, two Hispanic coworkers referred to him as “their nigga multiple times daily” until his termination. He says he was also called the N-word at least five times by employees of Rouge.

According to David, the “racially hostile and offensive work environment” trickled down to staff meals, which he says were provided to non-African American employees, but not him. He also says he was assigned the “least favorable tasks and shifts” and that he was assigned fewer hours than his non-African American coworkers. David claims he complained about the alleged treatment and that, as a result, his shifts were cut even further and that his treatment became “even worse.”

When reached for comment, Rouge owner Rob Wasserman, who also owns Parlor in Ardmore and who was not personally named in the lawsuit, told us that he cannot comment on ongoing litigation but added that he looks “forward to the day when the actual truth comes out.”

David’s attorney, James Bell of Bell & Bell on JFK Boulevard, was not immediately available for comment.

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