Woman Files Lawsuit Against Underbelly and The Pass & Provisions
As first reported by Houstonia Magazine, a former Underbelly server has filed a lawsuit against the popular Houston restaurant and its fellow award-winning eatery The Pass & Provisions, alleging "tortious interference, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress."
Photo by Troy Fields Underbelly is the target of a lawsuit filed by a former employee.
According to court documents filed on November 13, the server, Rachel Johnston, was employed by Underbelly's chef/owner Chris Shepherd at his restaurant Catalan, and then joined Shepherd at Underbelly when it opened, in February 2012. On one of her nights off in late November 2012, Johnston joined some girlfriends for dinner at The Pass & Provisions. Toward the end of their meal, they were asked to vacate their table in order to make room for other patrons to be seated. One of Johnston's friends did not appreciate being asked to move when other diners were allowed to remain seated, so she "vociferously complained" to the staff.
Johnston alleges that she apologized to the staff about her friend's outburst. The staff at The Pass & Provisions later learned that Johnston worked for Underbelly, and the next morning someone from the restaurant contacted Shepherd to complain about the incident. Because of this, Johnston claims, she was reprimanded and asked to quit her job. When she refused to quit, she was placed on unpaid suspension for two weeks.
Johnston came back to work after the suspension and says she was met with hostility by the kitchen and front-of-house staff. Underbelly co-owner Kevin Floyd had warned Johnston that if she came back the work environment would not be pleasant, but no one could legally fire her for the incident at The Pass & Provisions.
Photo by Troy Fields The dining room at Provisions, the more casual half of The Pass & Provisions.
On December 21, Johnston worked a lunch shift, but when she came back to Underbelly for the dinner shift, she says, she was fired. She was informed that she was being terminated for being drunk during her earlier shift, which is a violation of the restaurant's alcohol policy. Johnston maintains that she had not been drinking on the job and alleges that "Underbelly management condoned and supported a culture where employees, bartenders and managers would consume alcoholic beverages on the job," including shotgunning beers in the kitchen after most dinner shifts.