After completing an investigation into the firing of three black servers this winter, Downtown restaurant 1909 Taverne Moderne claims racism was not a factor in the firings, but has offered few details on why exactly the employees were let go.
The huge restaurant next to the Bell Centre, which is owned partly by the Montreal Canadiens hockey team and run by food service company Cara, came under scrutiny in January when its general manager fired the three staff without notice. All had worked there for longer than the three-month period where the Quebec government allows for terminations with no notice, and the staff said none of them received written notice of their terminations, as Quebec law requires.
Cara brought in an external organization to investigate, and Cara representative Otman Amer issued an unambiguous statement to Eater.
“The independent external investigation rules out any form of racism in the process that led to the termination of employees concerned. The investigation, like the testimony of many interviewees, demonstrates that these terminations were based on reasonable grounds and performances below our quality standards.”
However, the statement did not offer any concrete details explaining why the firings were not racially-motivated, or specify how the servers’ work was not up to par.
Two of the servers in question declined to comment on Cara’s statement, while one has not yet replied.
The servers, who each had multiple years of industry experience, told Eater in January that they were not given specific reasons for the terminations.
“[The manager] could not give me a straight answer, [he was] just saying that ‘we have standards’,” said one. Another said he was told “we feel it’s better for the advancement of the restaurant”, while the third server said her appearance was compared to that of her white colleagues when the manager was explaining the firing.
The servers also suggested that the restaurant had a double-standard in firing these staff, pointing to an alleged instance where another employee violating her contract. When that server was caught out, she was reportedly given a warning and retained her job.
While the restaurant’s operators were adamant that racism was not a factor in the incident, they acknowledged that their investigation helped highlight problems with the restaurant’s management.
“We have made organizational changes and intend to strengthen in-house training to ensure it provides a stimulating work environment where quality of services offered and respect remain top priorities,” wrote Amer. However, precise details about what Amer called “deficiencies” were again not offered.
Cara also declined to state whether the manager behind the firings, Jean-Bernard Forgues, had faced consequences, or whether he even still works for the company, although Forgues’ LinkedIn profile still lists the restaurant as his place of employment.