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Jan 27, 2010 09:31 AM

Boycotting PS7

You can read the full story here, including a statement from the restaurant:

Apparently, after a diner posted a comment about a waitress drinking from her cockail at the table (with a humorous, and not hostile tone, I might add) PS7, when unable to coax a confession from any of the waitresses on staff that night, fired all four female servers who worked that night.

I find that kind of scorched earth policy to be particularly appalling in this economy, and also in violation of Title VII anti-discrimination on the basis of sex. If the diner had reported that an Asian server had done the same, and there were four Asian servers on staff, would PS7 have fired them all based on their race? It's no different for sex.

The waitresses were offered their jobs back (probably after consulting with their lawyer) but all but one refused. I can't say I blame them, and I will not be dining at this restaurant.

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  1. Weird. If this person was so upset about the service, why didn't they complain to the manager when they were in the restaurant instead of posting online? If they did that, the manager would know at what table they were at and who was their server.
    I was at PS7 once a long time ago. I was not terribly impressed by their food plus their prices were a little high for me. So I haven't felt compelled to return.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Glindathegood1

      Yeah, this is a good warning to be careful regarding what you post about places of business online. In addition to possible liability for defamation, you can accidentally recreate that Seinfeld episode where George accidentally ruins the busboy's life (without saving it at the end).

      On other hand, the original poster wasn't even trying to make a scathing complaint - to me, the story was being shared as an amusing incident. So, even though I think the poster had some responsibility to mention it to the restaurant, arguably, this is really the restaurant's fault for overreacting in an extreme and, in my opinion, blatantly illegal fashion.

      And yeah, shaogo, I'm not one to normally suggest boycotting a restaurant. But sex discrimination is a compelling enough reason for me.

      1. re: Raids

        I wouldn't chalk it up to sex discrimination. They fired all the waitresses that were on duty that night because it was a female server involved. I think it was definitely way over the top, too, to handle it in such a manner, but unless they had a server in full drag, they knew none of the male servers were culpable.

        1. re: weezycom

          Each of the waitresses fired was fired because she was female...sounds like sex discrimination to me.

          1. re: weezycom

            I agree that it's not sex discrimination. Had they fired all the female servers after the diner said "a server" sipped their drink, that would be sex discrimination. I also agree it was an over the top reaction.

            1. re: irishnyc

              Also, they only terminated the female servers who were on shift that week. Had they fired all females regardless of whether they were on shift or not, that would be gender discrimination.

      2. I was thinking of making a post about this after reading today's chat, thanks for saving me the trouble!

        I'm pretty horrified by management's response, but I've worked in enough restaurants to know how awful most restaurant managers are.

        My opinion of PS7 has definitely declined because of it, and I'm sure I'm not alone.

        1. I'm not from DC but clicked on this thread when I saw the word "boycott."

          Its interesting to see what kinds of things restaurants are up to that impel customers to transcend just not going back and actually call for others to join their boycott.

          I've seen quite a few posts that call for boycotts of a restaurant. The behavior of this restaurant's management in this instance, however, merits some sort of organized action on the part of its customers/potential customers.

          It's important for a restaurant to support its employees (unless of course an employee is malfeasant). Perhaps in an effort to appeal to the online masses, this restaurant took seriously an anonymous (and less-than-serious) post by someone who said they'd dined in the restaurant, and fired four people. Fired them. One employee, perhaps, if they were already in hot water vis-a-vis warnings, etc. But I can't believe that four employees deserved termination without a warning. This pandering to the small minority of diners who post online is similar to the p/r approach of the guy who submitted the 100 things servers shouldn't do to the New York Times. Some of the on-liners applauded long and loud, but many more *laughed* out loud and realize what a pipe dream that list is.

          I, for one, will be following this story closely.

          1 Reply
          1. re: shaogo

            In my waitressing days, I never worked for any restaurant that supported its employees in any way, except when I worked at McDonald's. If it hadn't been for being stuck with no staff, I'm sure any of my weasly managers would have fired everybody without a second though.

          2. The firing part wasn't really what got to me. What got to me was that the manager/whoever had the power to make such decisions decided to believe an anonymous account on a chat where people are clearly inclined to exaggerate their restaurant experiences (good or bad), and then took it seriously enough to act like someone had made the same complaint in person without clearing it up with WaPo/Sietsema in the first place.

            I read the "complaint" when it first came up in last week's chat and thought it was sort of a frivolous thing to send to a Sietsema chat, especially if they weren't BOTHERED by it. If you're not bothered by it, and you personally shrugged it off as a one-time/Restaurant Week/bad luck sort of incident...why are you telling the WaPo food critic and asking him if it was typical and what one should expect at a high-end restaurant?

            Of course, it was Sietsema's/WaPo's decision to actually showcase that complaint, so what can you do (rhetorical question)? In the end, it was just a way-too-dramatic way of showing that "the customer always comes first" from the PS7 manager.

            1 Reply
            1. re: yfunk3

              yes yfunk3. someone's comment today made sense, the owner should have posted back asking the chatter to contact him/her directly and in the meantime lectured the staff on correct behavior before summarily dismissing them all. (personally when I read that last week all I could think was 'this server had to have been stoned')

            2. I'm curious, if they had fired all of the white males, would you still be boycotting? I can see viewing their actions as absolutely stupid, but I think the fact that they were women was incidental and not indicative of some greater bias.

              18 Replies
              1. re: jgg13

                Absolutely - sexism and racism trascend minorities.

                For me, this is more about terrible management practices and less about sexism.

                1. re: reiflame

                  Just checking. The tone of your post made it seem the opposite, which to me seemed like making mountains out of molehills. The likelihood that this had anything to do with the servers being female outside of the anonymous offending server being female seems pretty remote to me

                  1. re: jgg13

                    All I said was that I was horrified of management's response - I didn't say anything about gender. I'm not the original poster.

                    1. re: reiflame

                      Ah sorry, I thought you were the OP

                2. re: jgg13

                  Absolutely. That's reverse sex discrimination. Additionally, in a discrimination suit, the test is not whether the employer was intentionally being discriminatory - it's whether the individuals who were terminated were terminated because of their sex. This seems obvious to me - if I were terminated from a law firm because a client reported an issue with an otherwise unidentifiable female attorney, I would certainly file suit if they turned around and terminated all the female attorneys on staff. In that situation, I didn't do a single thing wrong *besides* being a female.

                  It is a defense to say the discrimination was necessary for some kind of business reason - and that's what PS7 would argue here - but it can be rebutted by showing their were less discriminatory alternatives that could have been undertaken to solve the problem. And I don't hear a lot of argument on this thread about that.

                  1. re: Raids

                    Word. It's a real bummer to read posters' theories on why this wasn't sex discrimination and what it would take for it to have been sex discrimination.

                    1. re: akq

                      It wasn't gender discrimination.

                      I'm not saying that it wasn't a complete over-reaction on the part of management, but is wasn't discrimination.

                      1. re: jpc8015

                        Just saying it over and over doesn't make it so. If you have any legal authority to support your position, I'd be very interested to read it.

                        Otherwise, from my understanding of gender discrimination law (albeit, from law school as I do not practive employment law) is that this would be a colorable claim for gender discrimination (i.e. that the reason the servers were fired were that they are female - if they had not been female, they would not have been fired and that there were less discriminatory ways for the mgmt to handle the situation).

                        1. re: akq

                          It sounds like you're saying that, to avoid discrimination based on gender, they should have fired every server who was working at that time, not just the female ones. This solution would also be a complete over-reaction, but at least it would be non-discriminatory.

                          1. re: dump123456789

                            Why don't we just close the restaurant down and fire everybody? That way we can avoid the apppearance of having discriminated against people.

                            For this to be gender descrimination they would have had to fire every female regardless of whether they were on shift or not. They didn't do that. They fired the people who fit the description of the person who supposedly broke the law; AND were on shift at the time. Not every female member of the wait staff was fired.

                            1. re: jpc8015

                              I'm voting against you on this one. Seems like discrimination to me, but we'll never know unless it goes to court.

                              1. re: jpc8015

                                No, the Supreme Court has held that "mixed motive" cases are still discrimination as long as gender is *a* motivating factor in termination. It's perfectly fine to think that this shouldn't be illegal, if that's your opinion, of course, but I assure you that it *is* illegal.

                                I should add that I no longer practice employment discrimination law either, but I'm not aware of any major changes in this area over the last two years.

                      2. re: Raids

                        And that, in a nutshell, is why I think the people in this country are bonkers.

                        Pretty soon people are going to start whining about "crappy employee discrimination" too

                        1. re: jgg13

                          You can't discriminate against people who like to sleep in and miss their shift.

                          1. re: jpc8015

                            @jpc & jgg: does this mean when I DO manage to find another job, I'll actually have to show up?

                            that's sort of a deterrent I hadn't counted on. gonna have to re-think this employment thing.

                            I still stand that a lecture and training would have been the more appropriate start. but isn't this topic getting stale?

                            1. re: hill food

                              Agreed. A lecture and training would have been far more appropriate. This was a gross over reaction.

                              1. re: jpc8015

                                did anyone notice this got moved from DC/Baltimore to "Not About Food"

                                I think that probably is a better place, but it is sort of a regional place/topic.

                                did I miss the usu. notice, or is that part of the new rules? or am I flipping out and it was always here?

                                1. re: hill food

                                  No, it was moved - it does fit pretty well in both categories (DC/Baltimore and Not About Food)