Civil rights lawsuit alleges racial harassment at Eddie Merlot’s in Bloomfield Hills

‘Some of the most heinous, offensive, despicable racial harassment that I’ve seen,’ attorney says

Eddie Merlot's faces lawsuit from former employees who claim the establishment encouraged racist behavior.

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. – Local 4 previously reported on claims of a hostile work environment at the Bloomfield Hills franchise of the restaurant chain Eddie Merlot’s. Now, a civil rights lawsuit has been filed on behalf of two ex-employees.

“This is a civil rights lawsuit filed for some of the most heinous, offensive, despicable racial harassment that I’ve seen in my career,” said Jon Marko, principal attorney and founder of Marko Law.

Monday, a 43-count complaint outlining what made Eddie Merlot’s Bloomfield Hills restaurant an alleged racist and hostile environment for workers was filed in Oakland County Circuit Court.

“Comments made by the manager of wanting to shove watermelon down the throats of little Black boys and girls. A special section at Eddie Merlot’s that was not as nice as the others that was delegated for African Americans to be placed there,” said Marko.

One of Marko’s client, the restaurant’s former sous chef, James Gaines claims the general manager would:

  • Regularly refer to African American customers as “those” people.
  • Regularly accuse African American customers of being high on drugs.
  • Refer to Sundays as “hat day” to mock the way African American women would be dressed when they came into the restaurant following church.
  • Purposely sat African American and Caucasian customers in different sections of the restaurant.
  • Told African American servers he wanted them to serve African American customers because it made him feel more comfortable than having Caucasian servers do so.

“We gave Eddie Merlot’s the opportunity to do the right thing and to take responsibility. I know given an apology and a promise to make changes and they refuse to do that. When we’re faced with that we have no other option except to use the courts to try to get justice,” said Marko.

He said they are seeking millions of dollars and when asked a specific amount Marko said, “Enough millions to make Eddie Merlot’s to change its culture and illegal discrimination.”

Eddie Merlot’s Bloomfield Hills declined to comment on the lawsuit.

About the Author:

Megan Woods is thrilled to be back home and reporting at Local 4. She joined the team in September 2021. Before returning to Michigan, Megan reported at stations across the country including Northern Michigan, Southwest Louisiana and a sister station in Southwest Virginia.