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Jury Finds Baba Yega Manager Was Fired for Reporting Discrimination, Awards Damages

The former employee of the now-shuttered Montrose cafe claims that she witnessed the use of ethnic slurs and age discrimination

the dining room at baba yega
The dining room at Baba Yega
Baba Yega/Facebook

Earlier this month, a Harris County jury awarded a Houston woman more than $30,000 in a lawsuit filed against Montrose restaurant Baba Yega that alleged she was fired for reporting discriminatory behavior.

The suit, filed by a woman named Christine Nugent in Harris County District Court on May 10, 2018, claims that Nugent was fired from her job at Baba Yega after reporting “discriminatory and harassing conditions and behaviors at the restaurant” to the restaurant’s owners. According to Nugent’s original complaint, Nugent was a manager at the restaurant who was told about and witnessed the use of “ethnic slurs, and sexual-orientation-based slurs,” “age discrimination,” and “racially discriminatory comments regarding customers” from her co-workers and employees she supervised.

When Nugent reported this behavior to the owners of Baba Yega, the suit claims that Baba Yega’s owners “pointedly ignored her” and allegedly retaliated by excluding Nugent from important meetings and lodging unfounded complaints about her performance. Nugent’s suit claims that she was eventually fired from the restaurant in 2017, when its owners claimed that she was “not on board” with changes they planned to make.

It further alleges that the owners of Baba Yega engaged in discriminatory practices like firing a longtime bartender because they “wanted someone younger in the position” and only hiring males to work in the kitchen because “men are better at that work.” It also claims that Nugent was paid demonstrably less for the same work as a male counterpart. In an official response filed with the court in June 2018, 2611 Grant Inc., the company that owns Baba Yega, generally denied all of Nugent’s claims and requested a jury trial.

The matter was heardin a two-day trial at the beginning of October, and the jury found that Baba Yega fired Nugent “because of [her] opposition to a discriminatory practice,” according to the charge of court. It also recommended $27,000 in back pay and benefits be awarded to Nugent, along with $5,000 in compensatory damages for “emotional pain and suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, [and] loss of enjoyment of life.”

Less than 6 months after this lawsuit was filed, Baba Yega was forced to close after a fire ripped through its Montrose bungalow in December 2018. According to the restaurant’s Facebook page, its owners are currently working on rebuilding the space, and have plans to reopen a “bigger and better” restaurant sometime in 2020.

When reached by Eater, the owners of Baba Yega, who also operate Hungry’s, Upstairs Bar and Lounge, and NextDoor Bar & Lounge in Houston, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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