A group of women who filed a $11million racial discrimination complaint after being removed from a train during a wine tour have reached a settlement.
The 11-strong party, which included 10 African-Americans, were ordered off the Napa Valley vintage trip last August after other passengers allegedly complained they were being too loud. They filed a lawsuit asking for $1m each after claiming they were humiliated and discriminated against by staff who told them several times to lower their voices.
Their lawyer yesterday revealed they have come to an ‘amicable settlement’ six months after filing the lawsuit at the U.S. District Court in northern California.
Waukeen McCoy, who did not disclose the terms of the settlement, said: ‘We hope that other businesses learn from this case and implement diversity and sensitivity training for employees.’
Train company officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
The women, who are members of a book club called Sisters on the Reading Edge, boarded the train in Napa on August 22.
They claimed they were having a good time, laughing and chatting with other passengers when they were approached by the train manager, who asked them to lower their voices.
The manager reportedly also returned a second time and warned the women that they would be removed from the train.
Their women were finally escorted off the train when it reached St Helena. They were met by police from the Napa Valley Railroad.
The company refunded their $124 fares and also provided a vehicle to pick the women up to transport them back to Napa – but the women insisted they had not done anything wrong.
Their complaint said: ‘African-American adults are more likely to be shushed at, stared at and kicked out of places where white people perceive that they do not fit.’
The lawsuit also accused the company of defamation and libel for publishing an inaccurate social media post describing the women as being verbally and physically abusive to other passengers.
The post, which also said it was ‘necessary’ to get police involved, was later removed.
Two of the women claimed they were fired from their jobs because of the defamatory statement made by the train company, according to the complaint.
Before the lawsuit was filed, Anthony Giaccio, chief executive of the company, issued a public apology along with a pledge to offer staff diversity training and host the women as guests on the train.
The free future trip for themselves plus 39 friends in a private car would have been worth more than $6,200, according to fare prices at the time.
But the women said publicly the response was not sufficient to erase the humiliating experience of being forced off the train and met by police.
The company’s actions prompted widespread anger on social media.
One witness, only known as Danielle from Seattle, wrote: ‘I watched in disbelief as staff harassed a group of people who were merely drinking wine and laughing.
‘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.’
The train has run as a tourist attraction since 1864 and offers dining services to passengers as the antique train cuts through scenic vineyards, the company says on its website.