Claims made by a Black former Cheesecake Factory manager who sued the restaurant chain alleging he was wrongfully fired in 2019 on a false charge of misappropriating nearly $7,000 and that his race played a role were referred to an arbitrator Monday by a judge.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Steven J. Kleifield took the action after attorneys for both the Cheesecake Factory and plaintiff Stephen Metoyer agreed to have an arbitrator rather than a jury consider his allegations, which include racial discrimination, failure to prevent discrimination, wrongful termination, malicious prosecution, negligence and both intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
The judge scheduled a post-arbitration status conference for June 28.
Metoyer sued on April 16 and Cheesecake Factory attorneys filed a motion to compel arbitration on July 7, arguing in their court papers that Metoyer signed an agreement in 2012 in which he agreed to arbitrate all disputes with the company as a condition of employment as a manager. Metoyer’s lawyers did not file an opposition to the motion.
Metoyer was hired by the Cheesecake Factory in April 2011 and initially worked as a server at the Marina del Rey restaurant, the suit states. He was promoted within a year to a management position and in December 2017 was transferred to the Grove retail complex location, where he was promoted to supervising senior manager, according to the suit.
Metoyer supervised the restaurant, assisted with guest issues, scheduled staff members and conducted safety walks for health inspectors, receiving praise from co-workers and guests, the suit states.
Metoyer received a call in April 2019 from Doug Ben, a man he knew to be the Cheesecake Factory’s CFO, the suit states. Metoyer was unaware that Ben, with whom he had spoken many times in the past, had resigned a few months before, according to the suit.
Ben instructed Metoyer to remove $6,850 from a safe in the manager’s office to buy a specified item from CVS and Rite Aid stores and send them to an address in Ohio, the suit states. Metoyer did so and placed himself in front of the video camera in the manager’s office where the safe was located when he withdrew the money, the suit states.
Metoyer also left notes on the office’s desk detailing Ben’s request, the suit states.
Soon after the incident, Kurt Leisure, the company’s vice president of risk services, assigned the senior manager of loss prevention, Solangel Slappy, to investigate the fund withdrawal, the suit states. When Metoyer began to repeat during a phone call with Slappy the chain of events that had occurred, Slappy abruptly cut Metoyer off, stating, “We are just going to move forward on this thing” and hung up, according to the suit.
Metoyer was fired on April 29, 2019, with no investigation or any justification, an action the plaintiff alleges was in part racially related.
Metoyer was earning about $70,000 annually with bonuses and hoped to be promoted to general manager, where he could make $100,000 a year, the suit states.
The theft allegations led to police, with a warrant, arriving at the home in which he’s lived since he was 5 years old, and which he inherited from his mother when she died, the suit states.
Neighbors with whom Metoyer had built reliable relationships began to avoid him, and former co-workers stopped communicating with him, the suit states.