|By Helen Peterson, Daily News, New York|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jun. 21, 2005 - Da Gaul!
Three veteran French waiters are suing the "21" club, claiming the famed eatery unceremoniously bid them adieu because of their age and accent.
The $5 million action charges that big shots at the W. 52nd St. restaurant treated older French employees like stale baguettes -- and fired them on trumped-up grounds.
"There is an anti-French sentiment that appears to be in keeping with the times," the trio's lawyer Edward Hernstadt told the Daily News yesterday.
The "21" club is a former speakeasy popular with business titans, Hollywood stars and politicians.
But behind the polished exterior, managers carried out a dirty mission to drive out graying French staffers, according to the suit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court.
The waiters claim that one manager, Jeffrey Sacchet, "expressed glee" over his perception that President Bush "hated the French."
He and another manager, Chris Haarsgaard, also ridiculed one man's accent and banned waiters from talking in French while allowing Spanish and Greek staff to speak in their native languages, the suit claims.
Rene Bordet, 68, and Jean Claude Lesbre, 63, both captains with 10-plus years on the job, were bounced after being falsely accused of drinking wine on the job, they said.
The third fired waiter, Yves Thepault, 68, who worked there for 14 years, was fired for "gross insubordination" after making a "derogatory gesture" to a chef who started a fight over a hamburger, the court papers say.
A "21" spokeswoman declined to discuss the case but denied any discrimination.
The waiters are seeking $375,000 in back wages and $5 million in punitive damages.
With Jimmy Vielkind
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