Chef Armand Appling claims his former boss Madeleine Pickens asked him to make “black people food” in a lawsuit accusing the luxury resort owner of racial discrimination.
The African-American cook says he was fired in 2014 for complaining about a hostile work environment after witnessing numerous discriminatory incidents at his workplace. He filed the federal lawsuit against Pickens, who is white, in February.
Appling claims Pickens instructed him not to cook “white people food,” allegedly saying guests of the Mustang Monument Wild Horse Eco-Resort, her high-end dude ranch in northeastern Nevada, would rather eat fried chicken, barbecue ribs and corn bread, The Associated Press reported.
Pickens, 69, is a philanthropist and the ex-wife of Oklahoma billionaire energy investor T. Boone Pickens. She is the founder and CEO of Mustang Monument, a “luxury American safari” that encompasses 900 square miles just outside the Ruby Mountains, according to its website. Accommodations include luxury “tipis” and “safari cottages” that exceed $1,650 a night.
Appling says Pickens used words like “ox” and “bull” to describe one black kitchen worker and complained about another for “having too much personality.”
The former staffer alleges Pickens told him to fire the pair because they “didn’t fit the image” of her eco-resort and contrasted with the look of employees at her Southern California country club.
Willie Williams, Appling’s attorney, argued that these types of statements have historically been used to discriminate against black people, according to court filings reported by the AP. He said terms like “ox” and “bull” imply property ownership, given “America’s long history of slavery where they were considered personal property of their owners.”
“We absolutely deny Mr. Appling’s allegations,” Dora Lane, Pickens’ attorney, told The Huffington Post on Monday.
Lane wrote in earlier court documents that even if the allegations against her client were true, Pickens’ comments would simply “reflect a non-racial personality conflict and amount to discourtesy, rudeness or lack of sensitivity.”
U.S. District Judge Miranda Du granted a motion to dismiss the lawsuit at a hearing last week in Reno, saying Appling’s legal representation so far failed to provide enough evidence proving racial hostility was a factor in his termination.
The judge is allowing Appling to refile an amended complaint against Pickens’ nonprofit, Save America’s Mustangs, by Jan. 13.
Lane told HuffPost she expects her client to be “vindicated” in court, but wouldn’t comment any further on the case.
Williams did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Though Pickens will continue to battle the discrimination allegations in 2017, she appears to be optimistic about what the new year has in store.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misidentified Judge Miranda Du as “Miranda Wu.”