OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – The only black customer at a Chili’s restaurant claims in court that a manager sat at his table and humiliated him by telling him and his friends “homo” and “black” jokes even after they said they didn’t want to hear them.
Mario Wilborn sued the manager, Jerry Jackson; the Chili’s Restaurant in San Leandro, and Brinker Restaurant Corp., which owns Chili’s, in Alameda County Court.
“We tried to obtain a resolution outside of court with Brinker, but they refused to settle,” Wilborn’s attorney Patrick Dwyer, told Courthouse News in an interview.
According to the complaint, Wilborn, who lives in Stockton, went to the Chili’s in San Leandro to have lunch with two white co-workers.
Despite not being invited to join them, he says, Jackson sat at their table and started telling jokes about gay people.
“Plaintiff and his colleagues were stunned and made it clear that these homophobic jokes were not appreciated and that they wanted Jackson to stop and leave the table,” the complaint states.
Undeterred, the complaint continues, “Jackson then asked plaintiff and his colleagues if they wanted to hear some ‘black’ jokes. Plaintiff said no and immediately asked Jackson to leave the table. Jackson, however, refused and said he was going to tell them the black jokes. Jackson then proceeded to tall a ‘black’ joke, the gist of which was that ‘black’ men did not want jobs.”
Wilborn says that other customers and Jackson’s employees “could hear and see what Jackson was doing at all times while Jackson was at plaintiff’s table.”
The complaint continues: “To the best of plaintiff’s knowledge, he was the only African American present in Chili’s at the time.
“Plaintiff, as an African American, has worked hard for everything he has achieved, including his education, his job, and his self respect.
“Plaintiff was publicly humiliated, disgraced, and disparaged on account of his race by Jackson’s conduct and words.
“Plaintiff is informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that Jackson has engaged in prior racial discriminatory conduct as an employee of Chili’s.”
He adds that “Chili’s was aware of Jackson’s racial bias against African Americans and had allowed him to continue as the manager … [and] that Chili’s has racially discriminatory practices and policies to discourage African Americans from being customers at Chili’s, including allowing its employees to utter racially defamatory remarks, jokes, and seating African Americans in the less desirable seating areas.”
Dwyer told Courthouse News that Chili’s fired Jackson soon after the incident, but he does not know whether Jackson was fired because of his conduct toward Wilborn or for some other reason.
Wilborn seeks at least $30,000 in damages under California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, and exemplary damages.
“It is hard for me to understand how such conduct still occurs in this day and age,” Dywer said. “It was shocking to the conscience that a person’s civil rights were so blatantly abused.”