Update: Red Lobster completes probe on racist receipt; server returns to work
Updated at 11:15 a.m.
A spokesman with Red Lobster/Darden Restaurants has confirmed that an investigation into an incident where their waitress was the target of a racial slur has been completed and she has returned to work.
"The server is back at work with her full normal schedule and throughout this time never actually lost a day of work," said Mike Bernstein, director of media and communications for Darden Restaurants.
Williamson County resident, Toni Jenkins, 19, was suspended with pay after she posted a picture of a receipt with a racial slur allegedly written on it by a couple she had served Sunday afternoon, which sparked the investigation.
"We remained in complete communication with the server during the suspension," Bernstein said.
Bernstein added that while he could not discuss details of the investigation he said, "we throughly investigated the matter and took the appropriate actions."
The attorney for Devin Barnes, who allegedly wrote the racial slur on the receipt, has not contacted Red Lobster/Darden Restaurants, according to Bernstein.
"We have high respect for [Toni]," Bernstein said. "This is something no one should ever have to endure."
On Sunday, Sept. 8, a photograph posted to Facebook of a receipt with a racial slur scribbled across it went viral. In a matter of hours, 19-year-old Toni Jenkins was receiving support from hundreds of strangers and speaking with media from across the pond.
“I never thought one post to my friends and family would spiral to this, especially to the UK and Huffington Post,” Jenkins told Brentwood Home Page. “I'm just another 19-year-old. I'm a nursing student at Belmont University and I got a job to pay to get a car. I never thought about all of this.”
Jenkins has worked at the Red Lobster in Cool Springs about nine months. During Sunday's rush, she said she greeted a young, Caucasian couple who had been seated at one of her tables.
“The couple who left the receipt were younger, maybe in their 20s,” she said. “They hadn't been waiting long when I approached and greeted the table … They ignored the salutation and proceeded to tell me what they wanted to drink.”
Jenkins said when she returned to the table with their drinks, she took their order. When she returned to the table with salads, the pair asked for their check and to have their food boxed up.
As Jenkins cleaned off the table after their departure, she noticed that the receipt, which was for a nearly $45 meal, had "none" written on the tip line and the racial epithet “Ni**er” on the charge total line.
"I took it, showed it to a friend who then snatched it out of my hand and said, 'Are you joking?'” Jenkins said. “We then took it to one of the managers who said, 'You didn't do anything to deserve that, so don't let it get to you,' so we left the office and that was it.”
When she posted a picture of the receipt on her Facebook page, along with an “overwhelming” outpouring of support came threats and criticism that the young Belmont University nursing student forged the racial slur on the receipt in order to generate attention.
“I’m not sure why people would accuse me of such a barbaric act,” she said. “The only thing I can say to that is those people clearly do not know me, because I could never do such a thing.”
Jenkins has since removed the photo from her Facebook page.
The following day her employers at Red Lobster reached out to her to ask for a written account of the incident and to tell her she would be placed on paid suspension while the corporation completed an investigation.
Jenkins said that her employers did not explain to her what or why they were conducting an investigation or why she was on suspension.
Jenkins added that she holds no hate or grudge against the young man who signed the receipt. “I've given it to God,” she said.
Jenkins said her intent when she posted the picture was to show, “that racism still exists in 2013.”
“The support has been beyond amazing and I want to say thank you to all those who support me,” Jenkins said.
Attempts to reach attorney Richard Dugger, who represents Devin Barnes, the man identified as the person Jenkins served, were unsuccessful.
Richel Albright is a reporter with Franklin Home Page. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow her on Twitter @rwalbright.