Two former employees at the New York restaurant of celebrity chef Nusr-et Gökçe’s – famously known as Salt Bae – have filed $500,000 lawsuits with discrimination claims. They also contain reports of being manhandled by senior staff and staff being prompted to lie about the food being halal.

According to the lawsuits filed against Nusr-et Steakhouse New York, waiter Angelo Maher and bartender Elizabeth Cruz claim they were treated differently because they weren’t Turkish.

Maher started working for the restaurant in 2017. The Peruvian waiter alleged that he was positioned in quieter areas of the restaurant and that he and other non-Turkish workers were not informed about the tips process. He said he had to give up his tips when serving Salt Bae’s famous friends, such as French Montana.

Maher claimed to have confronted a manager about it, to which they responded, “Stop with this tip-pool stuff cause I’m telling you, you are on your final warning, just stay neutral,” the suit alleges.

He said that Turkish employees were favoured and protected by management despite their service or performance. The lawsuit claims that he also had to pay out of pocket to cover his mistakes on diners’ orders, whereas the Turkish employees didn’t.

Another shocking revelation claims that peers told Maher to lie about the food being halal “despite the fact that this claim was not true”.

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Maher raised his concerns to Human Resources in 2019 – which reportedly backfired. Maher said he would be sent home early on shifts, placed in less lucrative areas of the restaurant and claimed to have been manhandled twice by Turkish employees. One alleged incident included his manager slapping him. Maher was then fired in March 2020.

In a separate lawsuit, Dominican bartender Cruz claims she was sexualised shortly after starting in April 2019. She reportedly got told to go home and change into “a short skirt, high-heels and a revealing top,” along with other crude passing comments from senior staff: “My wife is Dominican, I know how you women are” and that “was suggesting that Ms. Cruz was sexually promiscuous due to her heritage.”

The filing claims that Cruz later asked to go back to wearing standard uniform because she felt degraded. She was subsequently fired a few days later, the lawsuit claims.

Indy100 has reached out to Nusr-et for comment.

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