A group of Black women who laughed a bit "too loudly" were booted off the Napa Valley Wine Train In August in an incident that is being described as racially motivated and discriminatory.
The company issued a public apology to the women, but it may have just been to avoid legal trouble. Unfortunately for the wine train, that plan didn't work because the group has filed a hefty lawsuit against them for $11 million.
The lawsuit seeks $1 million in damages for each of the plaintiffs which includes 10 Black women and 1 White woman.
Two of the women have claimed that they lost their jobs as a result of the highly publicized incident.
The women must prove that they were singled out because of their race in order to have a chance at winning their case, but they already have the support of local and statewide NAACP representatives.
The women are members of the book club, “Sistahs on the Reading Edge.” They were on board the popular train, which offers a three hour wine tour of world famous vineyards, when they were approached by another passenger for “laughing too loudly” and eventually kicked off by the manager.
One of the women, Lisa Johnson, described the situation as “humiliating” as she and her friends were escorted off with police officers waiting at the stop.
The group doesn’t deny that they were laughing and talking amongst one another, but they maintain that they were singled out and targeted as other groups were behaving the same way and were not reprimanded.
That sentiment was shared by another White passenger who witnessed the incident and described her contempt for the way the women were treated in a Yelp review.
The story gained a lot of traction nationwide as some of the ladies who endured the humiliation shared their experience on social media and posted pictures of them being greeted by police when escorted off the train, documenting every moment.
Johnson said no one in her party was intoxicated and although they were loud at times, most passengers didn’t seem to mind and they even made friends and took photos with many strangers on board with them who joined in on their fun.
The Napa Valley Wine Train defended its staff’s actions in a statement posted to Facebook that same day which has since been removed, but Johnson captured a screen shot before it was taken down.
“Following verbal and physical abuse toward other guests and staff, it was necessary to get our police involved. Many groups come on board and celebrate. When those celebrations impact our other guests, we do intervene.”
The 12 women involved, including an 83-year-old grandmother, were given a full refund from the trip but Johnson insisted that was not enough and she requested a public apology from the organization, which she received three days after the incident.
The company issued a formal apology to the book club members for the manner in which the situation was handled by their staff.
“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.”
In addition to the apology, the company promised to conduct better training for its staff on cultural diversity and sensitivity and offered the book club 50 free passes for a future trip.