The Saltgrass steakhouse in Odessa, Tex. (Google Streetview)

The Texas restaurant company that banned a customer after an employee’s story of a receipt scrawled with a racial epithet went viral said Monday that it had parted ways with the employee and learned that the story was spurious.

“After further investigation, we have learned that our employee fabricated the entire story,” Terry Turney, the chief operating officer of Saltgrass steakhouses, said in a statement. “Racism of any form is intolerable, and we will always act swiftly should it occur in any of our establishments. Falsely accusing someone of racism is equaling disturbing.”

The incident unfolded earlier this month when Khalil Cavil, 20, a waiter at a Saltgrass outpost in Odessa, Tex., posted an image to Facebook that showed a $108 bill with zero on the tip line, and “We don’t tip terrorist,” written in ink at the top.  Cavil, who is African American and Caucasian, said the note was left on one of his tables, and that it left him “sick to my stomach.”


(Khalil Cavil)

“I share this because I want people to understand that this racism, and this hatred still exists,” Cavil wrote. “Although, this is nothing new, it is still something that will test your faith.”

The incident came amid increased attention given to incidents of racist behavior in the public sphere, particularly as they are shared in social media posts that generate thousands of views and strong emotions. But the ease with which fake information can spread on the Internet before it is ever verified remains a persistent concern.

Cavil’s post was shared thousands of times, generating about 8,000 comments on Facebook. The decision by Saltgrass, which is owned by the company Landry’s, to ban the customer for the incident drew coverage in USA Today, CBS and The Washington Post.

“Racism of any form is unacceptable,” Turney said at the time.

On Monday, the company declined to explain what had caused it to issue the striking about-face or whether Cavil had been fired.

“All I can say is he’s no longer with the company,” spokeswoman Colleen Wagner said. It is not clear what information on the receipt was authentic.

The customer, whose name had been redacted on the receipt, has not been identified, but the company said that the person has been invited back to the restaurant to dine free.

Cavil was not immediately available to comment. A voice-mail message left with his mother, Jamie Swindle, was not returned.  The Odessa American reported he had apologized in an interview with a reporter.

After his story went viral, Cavil thanked supporters on Facebook who sent him money. But Cavil’s Facebook posts about the incident have since been deleted and it is not clear whether his profile still exists.

At the time, Cavil gave an interview to an ABC affiliate in Texas in which he spoke about what he said was the history of his name and about how his faith was guiding him through the experience of supposedly being called a terrorist.

“It was not about the money,” Cavil said. “It’s about shedding a light on an issue I feel very passionately about.”

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