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Louisiana restaurant suspends two workers after they added automatic gratuity on Black couple’s bill

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A Louisiana restaurant has apologized after two of its employees were accused of racial profiling. 

On Sunday, Desi Vega’s Seafood and Prime Steaks in Metairie, Louisiana, posted a statement from owner Desi Vega about the incident on Facebook. Vega admitted that a server “improperly” added automatic gratuity on a Black couple’s bill. 

That server, as well as another employee, also lied to the couple about the restaurant’s gratuity policy, according to Vega’s statement. Those two employees have been suspended without pay. 

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“I would like to publicly apologize to Mr. & Mrs. Washington who did, in fact, improperly have an auto tip added to their bill by one of my employees at Desi Vega’s in Metairie,” Vega wrote in his statement. “The fact that my staff tried to cover the situation up by lying about it makes it much worse.”

“These two employees have been immediately suspended without pay, pending further review,” Vega added. “Desi Vega’s stands firmly against discrimination or profiling of any kind.”

The restaurant did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

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James Washington posted on Facebook about the incident in more detail on Saturday, explaining that he and his wife were having a “great time” during their date night at Desi Vega’s when they got their bill and a 20% gratuity was automatically added.  

He said he thought the automatic gratuity was “weird for a party of two” so he asked the waiter about it. The waiter told Washington that the automatic tip was standard. Washington also asked a manager, who agreed it was the restaurant’s policy.

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However, Washington explained he had also spoken to friends who go to Desi Vega’s and said they had never heard of automatic gratuity at the restaurant. He also asked a white couple nearby if they had gratuity automatically charged and they reportedly said “absolutely not.”

A Louisiana restaurant has suspended two employees after they added an automatic gratuity to a Black couple's bill and lied about the restaurant's gratuity policy. (iStock)

A Louisiana restaurant has suspended two employees after they added an automatic gratuity to a Black couple’s bill and lied about the restaurant’s gratuity policy. (iStock)

After that, Washington asked the manager directly if he had lied about the automatic gratuity.

“He admitted that he did,” Washington wrote, in part. “He confirmed that he and the server prejudged us.”

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“In the grand scheme of things, a 20% gratuity is nothing,” Washington wrote later in his post. “But it’s a small sample size of how some people look at African Americans and assume whatever they want to assume. The expedience of how the employee and the manager got together, conspired, and covered for each other makes matters worse.”

Washington did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

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After Washington posted about the incident on Saturday, Vega reached out to the couple and asked to meet with them in person, which they did. In a follow-up post, Washington said Vega “personally apologized and acknowledged these employees did what we said.”

“My wife and I believe his apology was genuine,” Washington wrote. “We did, however, emphasize that at this point, this is way bigger than us.”

He said he and his wife asked that the restaurant make a public apology and acknowledge the situation. They also asked for the restaurant to implement implicit bias training, post the restaurant’s actual gratuity policy and work with Café Reconcile, an organization that works with underprivileged youth to help them in the restaurant industry. 

According to Vega’s statement, he agreed to those requests for his restaurant

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Washington also explained that he and his wife did not ask Vega for a refund — though Vega was “adamant” about giving them a refund anyway –, nor did they ask him to fire the employees.

“We did not post our experience to seek revenge, a lawsuit, or monetary gain,” Washington wrote. “Our post was made in an effort to bring awareness and positive change.”

“We believe this was accomplished and we could not have done that without all of you rallying behind us,” Washington added. “We hope that other restaurants will implement similar policies in an effort to prevent this mistreatment from happening across the industry as a whole.”

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