A Tennessee man is suing a Red Lobster server and the chain itself for a total of $1 million, alleging that a racist receipt that subsequently went viral slandered his name.
On September 7, 2013, Devin Barnes and his wife visited a Red Lobster restaurant in Franklin, Tennessee. They placed a to-go order with their server, 19-year-old Toni Christina Jenkins, and paid their $44 check. On the line for "Tip," Barnes wrote "none."
A few days later Jenkins posted Barnes' receipt to Facebook. The version of the receipt that Jenkins posted has "None n**ger" scrawled on the tip line, and displays Barnes' full name.
"This is what I got as a tip last night," Jenkins wrote on Facebook. "So happy to live in the proud southern states...God Bless America, land of the free and home of the low class racists of Tennessee."
Barnes does not dispute that he left no tip. He denies writing the slur, however.
A copy of the lawsuit obtained by The Huffington Post alleges a willful and malicious act, slander and unlawful release of Barnes' personal information on the Internet. The lawsuit was filed in a circuit court in Williamson County, Tennessee, last Thursday. A spokeswoman for Red Lobster said the company has not yet been served with the suit.
"Three wrongs have been done here," Barnes' attorney, Richard Dugger, told The Huffington Post. "First of all, whoever wrote that name on the receipt is very, very wrong. I know neither Devin nor his wife did it. Second, Miss Jenkins posting it all over the world is very, very wrong. The third wrong is that Red Lobster did nothing to say, 'Stop it, put an end to it.' Two wrongs or three wrongs never make a right."
Red Lobster suspended Jenkins for posting the receipt online, as it was a violation of company policy. Jenkins has since returned to work. She also removed the photo from Facebook several days after posting it, but it has continued to circulate online.
When the receipt was first posted, a number of users on Reddit accused Jenkins of forging the receipt. Other users believed her account, and one took it upon himself to start a tip fund for Jenkins, which raised more than $10,000.
Barnes claims the incident has unfairly damaged his reputation, and says he has received threats and bullying comments from around the world since the post went viral. His lawyer told HuffPost that it was unfair that Jenkins profited off the slur.
"A lot of people on the Internet who I don't know are calling me a racist ... but I know I am not a racist," Barnes told ABC News 2. "I don't see color. I have many mixed-color friends."
According to Dugger, Barnes hired a forensic handwriting expert to analyze the receipt, and the expert concluded that Barnes did not write the slur. Jenkins has also claimed she didn't write it herself.
Red Lobster, meanwhile, appears to consider the matter closed. In a statement provided to The Huffington Post, a Red Lobster spokeswoman said, "After the completion of a full investigation into this matter, Miss Jenkins returned to work. As we shared before, we were disgusted by the language used on this guest check as it has no place in our restaurant or anywhere else."