Former local Red Lobster manager sues company for race & sex discrimination

HORSEHEADS, N.Y. (WETM) – A former manager of the Red Lobster on Maple Road in Amherst is suing the restaurant chain for race and sex discrimination.

According to a complaint filed in the Western District of New York, Elmira resident Miquelle Fountain is alleging “discriminatory conduct through racist and sexist harassment” leading up to January 9, 2020, when Fountain claims she was “wrongfully terminated” while working as General Manager of Red Lobster’s Horseheads location.

In the complaint, Fountain claimed customers referred to her as “colored” and refused to speak with her due to her race. Several complaints were made by Fountain to other managers in the company, which she says were ignored.

On Jan. 4, Red Lobster received an anonymous email from employees that Fountain claims was part of a “discriminatory campaign to harass and terminate” her following a “sham investigation.”

Fountain says she was not allowed to view the email or other alleged evidence against her and was told to stay away from the restaurant for several days leading up to her termination.

Fountain worked for Red Lobster for 13 years at locations in Florida, Michigan, and New York, most recently as the General Manager of the Horseheads location in 2017. Fountain says the location was nearly closed by the region’s Vice President of Operations due to financial issues.

Fountain outlined several other instances of alleged sex and race discrimination while working at various locations across the country.

In 2014 while working in Michigan, Fountain claims that her manager, a white male, requested her termination because she was black. The next year, the same manager allegedly said “no wonder you all have big butts, you put meat in your vegetables” and “don’t you ever come in this restaurant again with braids-this isn’t Africa.”

While working at the Chemung County location, Fountain says she contacted a former general manager in Michigan who said “I am sick of hearing about you. I will never care for your people the way you did.”

Fountain was transferred to a western New York location in 2016, where she was promoted to manager and claims the discrimination continued, including white servers refusing to serve black customers, numerous employees and customers calling Fountain “colored,” and customers refusing to speak with Fountain.

The complaint says Fountain was the first black general manager in the Elmira location’s history and that 98 percent of the 86 employees were white. The Horseheads location is named an Elmira location in the complaint filed by Fountain’s attorney.

The lawsuit includes 11 counts of violation of state and federal laws for which Fountain is seeking $5 million for each count in addition to punitive damages.

Nexstar contributor WETM has reached out to Red Lobster for comment on the lawsuit.

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