Kiara Green, a student at Florida A&M, says she experienced racial discrimination while working at an Applebee’s restaurant in Tallahassee.
Green, who was fired in 2019 after working for almost two years as a server, filed a lawsuit on Aug. 9 in Leon County Circuit Court against Applebee’s parent company, Neigborhood Restaurant Partners Florida Two, LLC. Tallahassee attorney Marie Mattox is representing Green.
According to the lawsuit, Green was called into the office of manager Vicky Griffin, where Green said she was told that her blonde hair color was no longer acceptable in the workplace. Green, 24, said she was told it was because she is a Black woman.
“I felt very disappointed when I was instructed to remove my blonde hair after I was hired with the same hair on,” Green, journalism major, said. “The fact that I was told that it was because the color did not correlate with my racial background really disappointed me.”
After noticing a change in behavior from the management team, Green decided to present the issue to the district manager. After being told not to speak about the situation, she refused to follow suit, which led to her dismissal from the restaurant.
“Coming into work, I would be asked to perform certain tasks that are outside of my job description and I started to notice that I was the only one being told to do so,” she said. “After reaching out to the district manager, they instructed me to not communicate this issue to the public. Because I refused to be silent about the racial issue, I was fired.”
Rodrigo Gomez, Green’s former coworker, said he observed the treatment and it made him feel uncomfortable.
“It caught me by surprise when I started noticing it at first,” he said. “Even though we may not come from the same place, racism is still a hate crime and it was very uncomfortable witnessing this at my place of employment.”
Gomez said there has been a new management team at the restaurant, and there has been a change in how things are being run.
“Since there’s been new management over time, the workplace has been a better place all around,” he said.
The Tallahassee Applebee’s manager said he did not want to speak about Green’s lawsuit. “I’d rather not speak on this issue because of legal reasons,” he said.