A Tennessee man is suing Red Lobster for $1 million after a waitress there faked a racist note on her receipt and then claimed the man had written it.
In September, waitress Toni Jenkins posted a picture on Facebook with the word “none” written in the tip line. It also had the N-word scribbled into the line.
Jenkins, who is black, claimed that the white patron left the note. The picture clearly showed the signature of the patron, Devin Barnes.
But Barnes denied ever writing the racial slur. He claims he was out to dinner with his wife at the Red Lobster in Cool Springs, Tennessee, when the couple had to leave before the end of their meal. They asked Jenkins to box their meal to go.
The 20-year-old Barnes did admit to skipping out on the tip, writing “None” in the line. But he says he did not write the N-word.
The picture set off a firestorm, with news outlets and blogs nationwide picking up on the case. An online fundraiser called “Tips for Toni” was started to help Toni Jenkins, ultimately raising more than $11,000.
Now Barnes is suing Red Lobster, saying the chain didn’t do enough to keep the situation under control.
Toni Jenkins said she now believes that Barnes did not write the word, but said she didn’t do it either. Jenkins also said she would have shared some of the money with him, but spent it to buy a car.
“Honestly I would…if there was any left,” she said.
At the time of the incident, Red Lobster sympathized with Jenkins.
“No one should have to endure what our employee went through last weekend,” said Red Lobster spokesman Mike Bernstein shortly after she was reinstated to her job following the incident.
But now, after it was revealed to be a fraud, Red Lobster isn’t speaking out against the waitress, either.
“It is against our policy to post guest information online,” said Erica Ettori, in a statement. “Our standard procedure is to suspend the employee involved with pay while we determine what happened. After the completion of a full investigation into this matter, Miss Jenkins returned to work.
“We were disgusted by the language used on this guest check as it has no place in our restaurant or anywhere else.”
The Red Lobster lawsuit is asking for a jury trial and seeking $1 million.