Lawsuit: Dispute over burnt pizza led to racial slur

- A problem over a pizza got so ugly at an Upper Darby shop that someone called the cops.

And it has now turned into a battle royale over claims of a racial slur against a customer.

FOX 29's Jeff Cole reports the case has echoes of the Starbucks controversy in Center City earlier this year.

It was an early evening on a Friday in mid-July 2017 at the Domino's on South 69th in Upper Darby, Delaware County. Reynold John, a 36-year-old plumbing apprentice, went to get his money back for a pizza he had delivered to his Southwest, Philadelphia home.

"The whole of the outside is burnt, and some of the middle was burnt. You could tell, like, it had been reheated or something," John said.

He says he spoke with Hardip Kaur, a worker in charge, to get his $15 returned.

Concerned Kaur may not give him his cash, John snapped a picture of her with his cell phone.

That's when the trouble started.

According to John, "She turned around and just went crazy with, 'You big, black n----, delete the photo. My husband is gonna get you. It's against my religion.'"

John claims the racial slurs came in waves. He called the Upper Darby police, who he says arrived and surrounded him, believing he was the wrongdoer until things were straightened out.

The police report supports his claims. It reads John said the pizza "was overcooked." He "wanted his money back," and the officer writes, while "police were on location the store employee called John a 'N-----.'"

"'You n---- this, you n---- that, this, that and the other.' I didn't know what to do, I was shocked," John said.

"I mean this is really a verbal assault," said Glenn Ellis, John's attorney, who says they hoped to settle the matter away from court.

"We reached out to Domino's Pizza. We reached out to the ownership through a letter," Ellis said. "And we didn't hear anything back from them. So, now we've filed suit."

In the lawsuit, John accuses Domino's of exposing him to verbal attack through racial slurs. The Ann Arbor, Mich., company declined to answer questions about John's legal claim or whether it trains its workers on issues of racial sensitivity and diversity.

But Domino's is far from the only company to face these claims.

When the manager of a Center City Philadelphia Starbucks called the cops on two African-American men waiting in the store for a meeting but not buying anything, protests erupted.

Starbucks closed its stores across the country and held anti-bias training.

"When you first forwarded it to me, the first thing I thought about was this whole notion of takeout while black," said Chad Lassiter, the newly-appointed executive director of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, the state agency that enforces anti-discrimination laws.

He says Starbucks set a high bar for fighting bias in businesses.

"We can be proactive and we can say, 'Listen, as an organization, we're going to shut down our operations and we're going to address things because we know those racial elephants are in the room,'" Lassiter said.

FOX 29 made repeated visits to the Upper Darby Domino's to speak with a manager and ask about the woman accused of making the racial slurs.

At first, the workers seemed not to know her. Then, when Cole showed them her photo and asked if she was still there, the other workers said no, she doesn't worker there anymore.

"When did she leave?" Cole asked.

"I don't remember," the worker said.

FOX 29 also knocked on the door of her Delaware County home seeking comment.

A man who answered the door said she wasn't there, doesn't live there and closed the door.

Kaur was not fired but left Domino's "on her own accord," She was not fired, says South Jersey lawyer Matthew Dopkin, who represents the owner of the franchise.

Dopkin tells FOX 29 his client "hires men and women of all ethnic and religious backgrounds." He says he encourages an "inclusive environment." He claims the use of racial slurs is "not normal," and it went both ways when the pair argued.

The police report makes no mention of John using racial slurs.

John's attorney denied it and was critical of Domino's failure to speak about the allegations.

"Coupled with their silence to these very serious complaints, I think it shows a total disregard for minority people of color customers, even though these companies are built on their backs and on their hard-earned dollars," said Ellis, John's attorney.

Police got John's money back for him.

"Here we have police doing the right thing," said the human relations commission's Lassiter. "We have police who are advocating to calm the situation, to deescalate it before it gets to a whole other level."

John says he won't be back: "I would never think anything like this would ever happen. I would think they would put people in place that are competent and would treat the public with decency, common decency."

Cole reported an update Monday night: A judge has dismissed the lawsuit, saying John did not suffer intentional infliction of emotional distress.

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