U.S. News

Black women's book club settles lawsuit with California wine train company

(Reuters) - Eleven women have reached a settlement with a California wine train company they sued for $11 million for racial discrimination after they were kicked off the train for being too loud, their lawyer said on Monday.

Members of the Sistahs on the Reading Edge Book Club came to an “amicable settlement” with the Napa Valley Wine Train company on Thursday, six months after filing a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Northern California, their attorney Waukeen McCoy said.

“We hope that other businesses learn from this case and implement diversity and sensitivity training for employees,” McCoy said in an email to Reuters.

McCoy did not disclose the terms of the settlement.

Train company officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

The 11 women, 10 of whom are African-American, were ordered off the vintage train on Aug. 22 after other passengers complained the group was too loud. The expulsion sparked widespread anger on social media.

The controversy unfolded as the United States grapples with persistent issues of racism and discrimination following high-profile police killings of unarmed black men over the last two years, which triggered waves of protest and a renewed civil rights movement under the banner of “Black Lives Matter.”

The women sued the company in October, seeking $11 million in damages for the violation of their civil rights.

“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 complaint said.

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 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.

Wine Train Chief Executive Anthony Giaccio issued a public apology along with a pledge to offer staff diversity training and host the women as guests on the train.

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 train has run as a tourist attraction since 1864, offering dining services to passengers as the antique railcars cut through scenic vineyards in California, the company says on its website.

Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee