I keep saying it -- racism is NOT delicious. And yet racism keeps happening in restaurants, spoiling our appetites and giving us sour stomach. This week Adam Wiercinski, a Jewish restaurant delivery man, won a $900,000 lawsuit against his employer, Mangia 57, for calling him a "dirty Jew." For real. In the middle of New York City, in the 21st century, people were calling a 50-year-old man that. Wait until you hear what else Mangia's supervisors did to this man. And to think I've actually eaten at this restaurant several times, too.
Wiercinski was called a pederast, had pennies thrown at him, and was regularly docked his tips. But it gets worse. Apparently one of Wiercinski's ex-supervisors would toot in front of him and then say it was Zyklon B -- the poison Nazis used in gas chambers to kill hundreds of thousands of Jews during the Holocaust. "See," he'd say, "this is your Zyklon B, you stupid Jew." Good grief, who does that?!? Passing gas at someone is gross enough, but to drag in one of the darkest, most shameful moments in the past century into it ... What the hell, who raised that guy?
It makes you wonder how the Mangia 57 supervisors treated the other restaurant staff. In New York City, as in the restaurant industry all over the country, the back-of-the-house staff is usually made up largely of immigrants. I'm sure whatever Wiercinski suffered, he wasn't the only employee subjected to disgusting racism.
And like many immigrants, Wiercinski didn't feel like he had the option to leave. A 50-year-old Ukrainian with no education? "He said, 'Who else is going to hire a 50-year-old deliveryman.' He was afraid," Wiercinski's lawyers says. I kind of also wonder if maybe there was something else going on with the delivery man to make him such a consistent target ... but we don't know.
For a family-owned restaurant, $900,000 is a lot of money. The jury only took four hours to reach their verdict, too. This lawsuit could very well sink Mangia 57 -- and if it doesn't, I imagine a couple more from other employees would do it. And maybe that's for the best in this case.
Do you think restaurants deserve to be sued when their employees do terrible things?
Image via Noah Addis/Corbis