BANGOR, Maine — An Orono woman has sued a Brewer restaurant owner alleging that he did not hire her because she is of German and Jewish descent.
Elizabeth Eisenstadt also alleged in her complaint, filed in September in Penobscot County Superior Court, that the owner called her a Nazi.
Michael Kessock, owner of Schooner’s Seafood & Steakhouse restaurant, has denied the allegations, saying Eisenstadt withdrew her name from the pool of applicants seeking to work at the restaurant that was the Muddy Rudder before Kessock bought it in June 2011.
In the complaint filed by her attorney, A.J. Greif of Bangor, against Mackess LLC, which owns Schooners, Eisenstadt said that she had worked as a server at the Muddy Rudder Restaurant beginning in May 2010 under the previous owners. The incident that led to the lawsuit, she claimed occurred in May 2011 when Kessock was in the process of buying the restaurant at 5 S. Main St. in Brewer. Eisenstadt, who is a member of a Bangor synagogue and whose father is Jewish, was interviewed that month to determine if she would stay on, according to her complaint.
“In the middle of the interview, Michael Kessock, the owner of Mackess, LLC, entered the room and asked [Eisenstadt]: ‘What’s your last name?’” the complaint said. “[She] told him: ‘Eisenstadt.’ He responded: ‘What the hell kind of last name is that?’
“[Eisenstadt] told Mr. Kessock that Eisenstadt was a German name,” the complaint said. “He responded: ‘I should have known that. You’re a Nazi!’ At that point ,[she] covered her Star of David with her right hand.”
In his answer to the complaint, filed by Bangor attorney Frank McGuire, Kessock, denied knowing what religious faith Eisenstadt or her father practiced, and denied ever seeing her wear a Star of David. Kessock admitted that he spoke with Eisenstadt during the course of an interview and that she said her name was German, according to the complaint.
“Mr. Kessock strongly denies having any bias on the basis of German nationality, race or religion, against Ms. Eisenstadt or any person,” attorney McGuire said on behalf of his client in a statement emailed to the Bangor Daily News. “Mr. Kessock’s own heritage includes some German and Austrian ancestry. He lived in Germany for three years.”
McGuire called Eisenstadt’s accusation “untrue and unfair.”
“It is hurtful to Mr. Kessock, whose own son is Jewish,” the attorney said.
After the interview, Eisenstadt made it clear she was not interested in working for Schooners and rebuffed Kessock’s efforts to speak with her, the attorney said in his answer to the complaint.
“To call a prospective employee a Nazi is beneath contempt,” Greif said in an email. “To address these words to a woman wearing an obvious Star of David is behavior I am confident any Maine jury will find outrageous. This type of behavior will only end when it is exposed in the bright light of a Maine courtroom.”
Eisenstadt is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, reinstatement, back pay and attorney’s fees. A trial date has not been set.