In a lawsuit, a New Jersey restaurant worker who requested additional masks for COVID-19 as well as additional security at her workplace claimed that she was fired in retaliation for asking for them while on maternity leave.
Daelasky Roman of Lodi (30) was hired by Montclair Hospitality Group, in March of 2021, to work at Ani Ramen House Maplewood as a floor supervisor, according to a suit filed last week in Superior Court of Union County.
Montclair Hospitality Group, which owns several restaurant brands, transferred Roman to Ani Ramen’s New Brunswick location in July 2021. Shortly after, an intoxicated customer accosted her and struck her face. He returned the next morning to harass her.
Roman requested that security officers be present at the restaurant several times after the alleged assault. However, the company failed to comply with his requests, according to the lawsuit.
Montclair Hospitality Group representatives and Ani Roma did not respond to requests seeking comment on the allegations in the lawsuit.
In August 2021, Roman found out she was pregnant and — because there were no security officers at the New Brunswick restaurant — she requested a transfer to a different company restaurant, still in fear of the patron who struck her, the suit says.
In lieu of a transfer to another company, Montclair Hospitality Group gave Roman a position as travel manager for the month following. The suit stated that she would still have to work at New Brunswick but only once a week.
The suit states that Roman requested additional COVID-19 safety precautions in November 2021 to protect her and her unborn child, as well as her co-workers.
A corporate manager asked Roman, according to the suit, whether she felt safe instead of giving her masks. “I feel safe as the next person,” Roman responded, according to the suit.
“As long as everyone feels safe and is coming into work, we are going to carry on. We don’t want to scare customers away,” the corporate manager allegedly said, according to the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, Roman’s requests for more safety measures led to the corporate manager retaliating against her.
In January 2022, the manager allegedly told Roman her salary was no longer in Montclair Hospitality Group’s budget and offered her a position as a server, which would have resulted in “a dramatic loss of income,” the suit says.
Roman was instead offered the hybrid position of Human Resources/floor manager. This also meant a relegation and a decrease in pay.
“Put simply, plaintiff was retaliated against for repeatedly advising (the manager) of legitimate safety concerns in the workplace and her request to accommodate her pregnancy,” the suit says.
For the next few months, Roman says she was given “sham” write-ups for mishandling petty cash and for speaking negatively about Montclair Hospitality Group, the suit says.
Roman took maternity leave from March 2022. Roman is alleged to have obtained approval from Human Resources for family medical leaves and temporary disabilities, which all would expire in August 2022.
However, Montclair Hospitality Group terminated Roman on June 11, 2022, stating in an email “she abandoned her employment duties,” even though her leave was approved and protected under civil rights laws, the suit says.
The lawsuit claims that Montclair Hospitality Group has violated New Jersey Conscientious Employer Protection Act through retaliation against Roman. The suit also includes allegations of wrongful termination and failure to accommodate. It also mentions gender and pregnancy discrimination and a hostile workplace.
“Roman simply wanted to perform her job, advance in the industry she loved, and raise a family,” the lawsuit says. “Instead of being commended for her selflessness, defendants began their campaign of retaliation toward her simply because she requested additional safety measures.”
The suit seeks reinstatement of Roman’s job, along with back pay, benefits and monetary damages.
Anthony G. Attrino Can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on twitter @TonyAttrino. Find NJ.com is on Facebook.
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