“The lady also made comments about me to another co-worker,” Donahue told a reporter, “saying that I am not family-friendly, that I should work at a strip club instead of an Olive Garden, that am I even black, am I from here, am I from America — just offhand comments like that. And referring me to ‘the other one.’ ”
Instead of asking the customers to leave, the manager allegedly changed out the server for a white one. Donahue didn’t think the manager should have complied.
“I do agree that was a bad decision at the moment,” Donahue told local media. “There was a way, a better way, that this could have been handled.”
Olive Garden looked into the incident Sunday and Monday and then made the decision to dismiss the manager, company spokeswoman Meagan Bernstein wrote in a statement to The Washington Post.
“We have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind, and the manager involved no longer works for our company,” Bernstein said. “We completed our investigation on Monday. As a result of our investigation, we made the decision to separate with the manager involved.”
Bernstein didn’t respond to questions about what prompted the probe and when the manager was let go.
The Rev. Gerald Arnold, president of the local NAACP chapter, said that he would investigate what happened at the restaurant.
“I’m 76 years old, so I’ve experienced a lot of racial biases,” Arnold told the Evansville Courier & Press. “Today, 2020, it grabs you that … if in fact this is true, we’re still having to deal with those kinds of issues.”
Still, Arnold said it seemed uncharacteristic for the locale.
“It’s probably not going to be the culture, because they have a very diverse staff, a very diverse clientele,” he told another local outlet. “I go there myself.”
Donahue said she was appalled by what happened during an otherwise typical Saturday dinner rush.
“I never expected it to be so apparent and public,” she said. “It’s 2020, not 1920, and I feel like in 2020 we should be over this. Something should have been done, and it will take more than social media to get a problem like this out there.”
Maxwell Robbins, who was dining tables away during the incident, took to Facebook to express outrage over how the servers were treated.
“I’m never going back to the Olive Garden in Evansville,” Robbins posted on Facebook. “It’s disgusting that olive gardens manager would allow that especially with a very diverse staff.”
Robbins has since updated his popular post when he found out the manager was fired.
“We got done what needed to be done and it shows that we will not stand for any racism around here,” he wrote.
In late 2019, another chain faced backlash for complying with prejudice demands.
Buffalo Wild Wings fired employees from an Illinois restaurant who asked a party of black families to move tables because a customer didn’t want to sit near them.