African American women ejected from Napa Valley Wine Train files racial discrimination suit

Napa Wine, black women, btb

A group of mostly African American women who were ejected from a Northern California wine country train have filed a racial discrimination lawsuit.

The 11 members of the book club, all but one of whom is African American, say they were ejected from the Napa Valley Wine Train for laughing too loud and being disruptive during an afternoon excursion in August.

The lawsuit seeks $1 million each for the 11 women who claim they were humiliated and discriminated against when staff ordered them from the train after warning them several times to lower their voices.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in San Francisco federal court.

For their annual round-trip through the wine country, the women, who are members of a book club called Sisters on the Reading Edge, boarded the train in Napa on August 22.

About mid-way into their journey, the women said they were having a good time and laughing, while occasionally chatting with other passengers.

The women said that a train manager approached them and asked them to lower their voices.

The train manager reportedly returned a short time later and warned the women that they would be removed from the train if they did not lower their voices.

Once the train reached St. Helena, the women were escorted out past passengers in other cars and met by police from the Napa Valley Railroad and the city of St. Helena.

‘We didn’t do anything wrong,’ club member Lisa Johnson, who chronicled the episode in cellphone videos and social media, told KTVU.

‘We still feel this is about race. We were singled out.’

The Napa Valley Wine Train refunded their $124 fares and also provided a vehicle to pick the women up to transport them back to Napa.

However, someone from the company posted an account of the incident on Facebook that accused the women of ‘verbal and physical abuse toward other guests and staff.’

Even though it was quickly deleted, the Facebook post angered the group of women.

Johnson denied that any members of her group were abusive.

‘Their post said we were physically and verbally abusive to their staff and that is not true,’ Johnson said.

‘It was a defamation of our character.

‘Laughing while black — that’s the only thing we were guilty of.’

After witnessing the incident, a fellow passenger named Danielle called out the company in a review on Yelp.

‘Definitely not an organization I would recommend or ever support again. I watched in disbelief as staff harassed a group of people who were merely drinking wine and laughing,’ she wrote.

‘I’d like to think it wasn’t a racially motivated act, but given the fact that other, non-black guests were behaving in the same way and not removed, I can only conclude that it was discrimination.’

Anthony Gaccio, company’s chief executive, apologized to the women in the days following the incident.

‘The Napa Valley Wine Train was 100 percent wrong in its handling of this issue,’ CEO Anthony ‘Tony’ Giaccio said in a statement.

‘We accept full responsibility for our failures and for the chain of events that led to this regrettable treatment of our guests.’

He offered a free future trip for themselves plus 39 friends in a private car – an offer worth more than $6,200 at current fare prices.

The women and their lawyer, Waukeen McCoy, dismissed that offer and are now pursing this lawsuit.

Owners of the train say they have hired a retired FBI agent to investigate the women’s claims, in response to the lawsuit.

Ownership of the train changed hands on September 15, three weeks after the incident.

The new owners are Nobel House Hotels & Resorts, in Seattle, Washington and Brooks Street, a real estate development and investment company with an office in Walnut Creek, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

No plans have been announced to change the train’s operations or staff.

Source: The DailyMail

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