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Former Simply Pasta waiter suing restaurant for racial discrimination

BY Thomas Zambito
Monday, May 4th 2009, 11:59 PM

DeCrescenzo for News Marcus Simmons was fired from Simply Pasta, a restaurant in Midtown, in July 2007. He is now suing the establisment, claiming other workers taunted him and another African American worker.

A black waiter says bosses at a midtown Italian eatery brushed him off when he complained that co-workers chanted racial epithets at him in Spanish.
Marcus Simmons is expected to sue Simply Pasta for racial discrimination Tuesday in Manhattan Federal Court.
Simmons, 28, of Brooklyn, says the chants occurred in April 2007 when he tried to intervene in a confrontation between Hispanic workers and the Theater District restaurant’s only other black employee.
“Mayate, mayate,” the Hispanic workers chanted, according to the lawsuit filed by lawyer James Vagnini.
The slang term roughly translates as insect and is used derogatorily to refer to dark-skinned people. Simmons considered it a substitute for the N-word.
“That word is very hateful,” Simmons said. “I was very upset. I took the picture because I knew no one would believe me. They tried to play it like I’m crazy.”
Months later, Simmons says he walked into the kitchen and, beneath a posting warning waiters that the kitchen was running out of “Seafood Ravioli,” was the phrase, “Rata Mayate.” “Rata” means rat.
Simmons snapped a photo on his cell phone and included a copy in his complaint.
He asked co-workers, “to stop calling anybody n—– in any language,” according to a complaint filed with the State Division of Human Rights.
After the comments persisted, Simmons says he confronted general manager Martin Eklund on July 23, 2007, about the alleged harassment.
Eklund responded by sending him home, according to Vagnini.
When Simmons came to work a few days later, he was told management thought he’d quit. He’s currently unemployed.
In response to the Human Rights complaint, Simply Pasta denied that “mayate” is a substitute for the N-word and says the bulletin board scrawl was quickly erased.
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