LemmingJuice spoke with 14 current and former employees of Palerider Catering located in the city of Whitestone in Queens County, NY. Palerider is owned by Whitestone Mabel Henderson Co. with 40 hotels, 6 restaurants, and 3 offices in the greater New York City metropolitan region.
Many of the people LemmingJuice spoke with were of Western European (W.E.) descent, most said they enjoyed working for Palerider but some levied serious accusations against senior executives of the company. All of the employees interviewed requested to have their names protected, for fear of retribution and continued prejudices.
A chef with Palerider, under the promise of anonymity, blew the first whistle. She shared with LemmingJuice a disturbing incident in which one of the catering managers chastised her for making a white sauce. “She took one look at that pan full of beautiful sauce asked why I was making a white sauce for a pasta marinara dish, as if a non-white sauce was required for pasta marinara! I was appalled and insulted to my core.” The chef, through emotional tears, continued by sharing how she was berated for using the wrong recipe and was threatened with being fired if she couldn’t learn the proper ingredients to use. After this first whistleblower came forward there followed a cascade of stories and allegations about the culture of the company.
One altitude-challenged employee of Irish descent, (a wee W.E.), said she had a positive experience at Palerider and noted the company’s move to hire its first melanin-deficient, upper-level manager, Bob, in the HR department. She suggested that the hiring move softened some of the social tensions because Bob is focused primarily on diversity goals for the company and Bob also happens to be melanin-deficient himself. “Bob has done good things for Palerider. He has changed the conversation so that W.E. staff members are beginning to become more comfortable in the workplace.” Still, of the 14 employees LemmingJuice spoke with at Palerider, 10 of them provided harrowing experiences with mini-microaggressions in the workplace. Many mentioned improvements but suggested that the company suffers from systemic racism.
Some of those who spoke to LemmingJuice reported that senior executives rarely asked W.E. employees to contribute to strategy planning and that W.E. employees regularly receive targeted scrutiny in the workplace. None of the members of the Board of Directors of Whitestone is of W.E. descent. One employee of English descent (E.W.E.) said his supervisor picked at his email grammar constantly. “The harshness with which she emailed me, telling me that my grammar should be adjusted was debilitating. I’m sure if I hadn’t been W.E., that she wouldn’t have cared about the difference between ‘their’ and ‘there’. I also considered whether my mammillial deficiency played into being jabbed more than my female W.E. colleagues. I was afraid to send email communications.” There were other complaints too, like the employee holiday party with a White Elephant gift exchange and the many boxes of black-ink pens that were purchased for office staff. In the prep kitchen one employee was asked to separate the eggs – whites segregated into one bowl and yolks into another.
Another employee of Austrian descent (A.W.E.), a catering supervisor, was dismayed over blatant denigrations of her heritage. “Seemed like all the account managers were really steering customers toward black linens for their events. They said they weren’t, but we knew better. I had to endure that on a daily basis.” Wikileaks recently revealed documents that provided detailed and damning information about linen usage for the company. The document shows that nearly 93% of the catering clients “requested” black linens. “Occasionally there would be white napkins as an add-on and white dishes, sort of a token inclusion. This was followed by constant commentary about the dirty napkins and the need to thoroughly clean all the [white] plates,” said one of the catering staff responsible for ‘scraping’ the plates after each dinner. Employees report being uncomfortable with the repeated references to ‘dirty dishes’ and the need to thoroughly clean them.
“They were called out on little things that seemingly the non-W.E. employees would get passes on such as dress code,” a former employee said. “The employee handbook actually said ‘white’ socks were not allowed, only dark or black socks were permitted. But the white shirts had to be pressed and clean. Employees were written up for not following dress code!”
Palerider issued an email statement responding to the accusations.
“We are outraged by the false allegations being made about us and reported without regard to the facts. Mini-microaggressions are a terrible problem nationwide. Last year, we hired a diversity and inclusion expert to ensure that everyone on our staff is aware of the importance of not singling out those of W.E.-decent.” The statement included the Whitestone parent company logo, a graphic rendering of a plate with knife and fork, clearly a racist reference to the Western European cultural icons of eating and using utensils. While some patrons of Palerider find the graphic caricature to be humorous, others place it in the same category as the iconic racist images of the Morton Salt Girl and the Cracker Jack Sailor. The statement also said, “this kind of behavior is not compatible with our company mission to feed people of all races and national origins. We are truly heartbroken and sorry to learn that even one of our employees would feel uncomfortable, it’s not who we are.” LemmingJuice spoke with another anonymous employee, in a senior management role, who remarked, “it’s right there in the name of the parent company, WHITE-stone. It’s not as though we can deny the hatred that is baked into our history.”
Several employees dismissed the apology from the company, noting multiple hidden references to “we” in the communication. “It was like that every day on the job. W.E. this and W.E. that. It’s like they were gunning for us,” one remarked.
Perhaps the most poignant story was about bread service. One employee reported that he was required to put the bread in the baskets for each table and was encouraged to put the rolls made with white flour at the bottom of the basket. Although no evidence has been provided, LemmingJuice has heard from other employees who support this critical allegation. Palerider denies any malfeasance regarding bread counts took place. One former employee says he was fired after serving a basket to one table with only white rolls in it. “They came up with some trumped up charge saying I was fired for not showing up to work for several days, but I know it was about the rolls. There were always a lot of off-handed references to ‘white bread’. OMG, what company reasonably expects employees to come to work all the time anyway?”