Lawsuit: Server found razor blade in salad at Madison Heights Red Robin

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews (PRNewsFoto/Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Inc.)

A Black woman is suing a suburban Detroit restaurant where she used to work, saying co-workers put a sharp metal object in her salad after she complained to managers that they frequently used a racial slur in her presence.

Zenarra James filed the lawsuit Thursday in Oakland County Circuit Court against the Red Robin in Madison Heights and the Farmington Hills-based Ansara Restaurant Group. It alleges racial discrimination, a hostile work environment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and direct negligence.

On several occasions starting in February, James, who was a server for the chain restaurant, said she overheard several white staffers use racial profanity in the kitchen and dish room. The 26-year-old said she complained to her white managers that the language was inappropriate and made her "feel uncomfortable," according to the lawsuit.

A co-worker later confronted James and accused her of snitching on him.

"Again, plaintiff James went to the management staff to complain about this behavior, but they told her that he had ‘anger problems’ and she should just ‘leave him alone,’" according to the lawsuit.

The issues surfaced again in April and James said she wrote a note asking one of the staffers to stop using the language. James added that she gave the note to her manager who said he would speak with the worker.

At the end of her shift the following day, James said she ordered a chicken salad to-go from the kitchen. She went home and as she ate the salad she bit into what appeared to be a razor blade. She said the salad had been prepared by friends of the man who accused her of snitching, the lawsuit says.

James said she then messaged the general manager via Facebook, told him what happened and said she would not be returning to work.

She is seeking back pay, front pay and other damages in excess of $25,000.

The Associated Press left a message and sent an email Thursday afternoon seeking comment from the Ansara Restaurant Group. The AP called the Red Robin for comment and was left on hold for 20 minutes.