Waitress, Red Lobster Sued For $1 Million In Alleged Race Hoax

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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A Tennessee man filed a $1 million lawsuit Thursday against Red Lobster and one of its waitresses after the waitress claimed last year that he wrote a racial slur on a tip receipt.

Last September, the waitress, Toni Jenkins, posted a picture on Facebook of the receipt which had the words “none” and “Nigger” scrawled on it.

Jenkins, who is black, claimed that a white patron had written the slur.

The name and signature of that patron, Devin Barnes, were visible on the receipt.

But Barnes denied writing the epithet. He said he was out to dinner with his wife at the seafood chain’s Cool Springs, Tenn. location.

Something came up which interrupted the couples’ meal, Barnes said. They asked Jenkins to have their food boxed up to-go.

Barnes, 20, admitted that he wrote the word “None” in the tip line. But not the derogatory word.

His lawsuit, filed Thursday, is meant to cover suffering he says he and his family endured by being labeled racists.

He says that Red Lobster didn’t do enough to address the situation before it got out of hand, WSMV reports.

Jenkins was initially suspended after the picture of the receipt went viral on the internet. But she was reinstated after a number of prominent news outlets picked up the story. A website raised nearly $11,000 for Jenkins in a “Tips for Toni” campaign.

The waitress used the money to buy a car.

But two handwriting experts who looked at the receipt and at writing samples from Barnes, his wife, and Jenkins determined that it was unlikely that the couple had written the slur.

The expert hired by Barnes and his attorney concluded that both Barnes and his wife were unlikely to have written the slur.

Another expert, contacted by The Daily Caller News Foundation, analyzed the receipt, comparing it to a copy of a writing sample from Jenkins. The expert determined that “within a reasonable degree of certainty” Jenkins had written the slur.

Jenkins responded at the time telling TheDCNF that she no longer believed that Barnes had written the word.

She said she would apologize to Barnes but maintained that she did not write the word either.

Asked if she planned to share any of the donations she received with Barnes, Jenkins said “Honestly I would…if there was any left.”

At the time of the incident, Red Lobster sympathized with Jenkins. (RELATED: Racist Red Lobster Receipt May Be Hoax, Analysts Say)

“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.

The company has since softened their outward support for the waitress.

“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.”

Ettori did not elaborate further, saying that Red Lobster has not yet been served with the lawsuit.

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