Woman Files Lawsuit Against Underbelly and The Pass & Provisions

underbellysuit.jpg
Photo by Troy Fields
Underbelly is the target of a lawsuit filed by a former employee.
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."

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.

provisionskitchensuit.jpg
Photo by Troy Fields
The dining room at Provisions, the more casual half of The Pass & Provisions.
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.

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.

Location Info

Venue

Map

Underbelly

1100 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

The Pass

807 Taft St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Provisions

807 Taft, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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32 comments
Adam Komar
Adam Komar

I wouldn't expect better from a place called Underbelly.

Sabrina Sutherland
Sabrina Sutherland

How many times are you gonna post this? We get it already! You're beating a dead horse !

marina
marina

Where is the PR unit that has finessed every message about Underbelly? They are listening here....and not saying much, which is a shame. Come out of the shadows PR folk...you have your message nearly formulated so we can teeth on it, right?

Otherwise, who cares. Underbelly was a good inspiration, interesting for a while and is now breaking up. I like the space, dig the idea, but don't think the excitement can be kept up beyond a few coats and ties who find it 'really novel'. It will become a Reef of sorts and lose its organic appeal to those who have moved on to classics or the next flash in pan.

David Weiss Jr.
David Weiss Jr.

what goes on in the back of the house stays in the back of the house... fucking waiters...

Sandra V Meyer
Sandra V Meyer

she sounds like a opportunist! Call me heartless but c'mon! You work at that restaurant! you know the volume! They probably asked you to move politely and your friend was more than likely drunk and took it to the next level... we all have friends like that.... there is more to the story! It's a restaurant, at that, it is a small restaurant where your boss can ask you to leave and so forth. There are guidelines to dining in your workplace, were you there for 3hrs ??? Thn I might ask you to leave, or finish up, thinking you would understand.... bc you work there... anyways I over exaggerate, idk what happened, I am just making an opinion.... not to make people mad but if you have ever worked in a restaurant you know....also a beverage on duty ....and sexual comments.... it's all fun and games til someone takes it to the next level to get money.

heyheyJ
heyheyJ

So did Pass & Provisions make them move because they were finished eating and just sitting around lingering while a waiting party had reservations for the table? If not, or if Rachel's party was not done eating, this is in very bad form on the restaurant's part.


But regardless, I don't understand why Underbelly would want Rachel to quit her job. Are all these fancy, trendy restaurants in cahoots with each other?

golden_brewski
golden_brewski

this is what happens when power-hungry punks like Floyd and Heugel get too big too soon

Lea Brice Hougland
Lea Brice Hougland

Just because it's commonplace, doesn't make it right. Good for her for filing a lawsuit. It sounds like she could win this

Megan Boone
Megan Boone

sexual innuendos while working at a restaurant? No way!

George Zoes
George Zoes

poor firkin baby, go get a job somewhere else

El Cheapo
El Cheapo

WAIT - People in the service industry drink while at work?!?!?! THE HUMANITY

hjg113
hjg113

chris sheperd sounds like a sexist pig. looks like one too. oink oink.

delVolpe
delVolpe

Attorney help? 

I thought Texas is a 'right to work' state, meaning that employers have super-wide berth when firing an employee, and the workers basically have no rights. 

Chris Shaw
Chris Shaw

Steven Alex Vanderpool Chris Franklin Russell Ybarra

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Anyone else think that statement reads like a Reagan disclaimer?  "Well, yes but no..."

RiFF
RiFF

iT'S ABOUT TO GO DOWN.

WestSideBob
WestSideBob topcommenter

Seems like a fire is smoldering in the kitchen.  Stay tuned.

WhatItIz
WhatItIz

@Sandra V Meyer All that is made up in your head. Maybe you enjoy being disrespected and treated badly. But don't talk shit about others for not being a doormat. 

hjg113
hjg113

@heyheyJ yea it makes no sense! even if they were done eating they were paying customers!! they should have been allowed to stay especially since the tables around them were not asked to leave. 

hjg113
hjg113

@sibo10 i couldnt agree more. Maybe a suit like this will open up the perverts eyes and stop sexually harassing women in restaurants. Its not okay!! 

hjg113
hjg113

@delVolpe well, if you got fired from a job where they said you were drunk and you were sober you would sue too. 

Bremerhaven
Bremerhaven

@hjg113 @heyheyJ  .

oh, right you are! my friends and I often enjoy a round of backgammon and bible study after we've polished off our restaurant meals. I was shocked once when we were asked to leave and conduct our fun elsewhere

sibo10
sibo10

@hjg113 @sibo10 Exactly!  So much is going on behind closed doors at Hugos. Nightmares that need to be told.  Including sexual assaults, not just harassment.  It's unfortunate that guests are not aware of the pain behind a server's eyes.  It's a double edged sword to speak up... Fear of retribution and shame.. it sucks


heyheyJ
heyheyJ

@Bremerhaven I actually don't have a problem with them being asked to leave if they were in fact staying a ridiculously long time after eating. But the restaurant calling her workplace and complaining leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I don't get it. It makes me not want to eat there any more, which is shame, b/c the food is great.

Underbelly, I've never been to.

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