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article imageCalifornia book club settles race bias lawsuit against wine train

By Nathan Salant     Apr 19, 2016 in Food
San Francisco - A group of mostly African American women kicked off a tourist train in the Napa Valley for being too loud have settled a race-discrimination lawsuit against the private railroad.
The group, from the east shore of San Francisco Bay, had alleged in their $11 million lawsuit that they were booted from the Napa Valley Wine Train because they were black.
But the railroad said the members of the group, Sistahs on the Reading Edge, were kicked off the luxury train because they were loud and disruptive.
An attorney for the women, Waukeen McCoy of San Francisco, declined to reveal how much money was paid to the group, according to the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.
McCoy said the settlement should be "a learning experience for all businesses" in the need for diversity and sensitivity training," the newspaper said.
Wine Train officials did not respond to a request for comment, but said earlier in the case that they usually had to kick passengers off the train about once a month.
The settlement still must be approved by the Wine Train’s governing board.
According to allegations in the lawsuit, the 11 women boarded the train in Napa, Calif., last August for the scenic ride through Napa Valley to St. Helena.
The train serves food and alcohol as it makes the 36-mile round trip, stopping at towns and wineries along the route.
The women were laughing and having a good time when a train manager asked them to lower their voices, but they told the manager that they were not behaving any differently than other passengers
The manager repeated the warning later in the trip and ordered the woman off the train in St. Helena, where they were met by police and driven back to Napa.
The wine train refunded their fares but later apologized and offered them a free trip, which was refused.
Instead, the women filed suit claiming they were discriminated against because 10 of them were black, and that they had been libeled in a company Facebook post about the incident that accused them of "verbal and physical abuse toward other guests and staff."
The wine train deleted the posting, but McCoy said it was distributed widely on social media and that two of the women lost jobs as a result.
"We're just looking forward to moving on and getting back to reading books," one of the plaintiffs, Lisa Johnson of Antioch, told the newspaper.
The Wine Train was founded 26 years ago by former Rice-a-Roni executive Vincent DeDomenico and was sold last September to Noble House Hotels & Resorts of Seattle and Brooks Street development company, the newspaper said.
More about Napa, Discrimination, San Francisco, booted, Wine
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