Madeleine Pickens runs a dude ranch and wild horse sanctuary in Nevada, kind of a horse lover’s country club, called Mustang Monument Wild Horse Eco-Resort.
The Associated Press reports that a federal lawsuit has been launched against Pickens for racial discrimination. A man named Armand Appling worked for Pickens until 2014, when he was fired in what he says was a retaliatory move after complaining about a hostile work environment. Appling, who is black, alleges Pickens told him to make “black people food” not “white people food,” and used language about other black employees in the kitchen that he believes exhibited her racial bias:
Among other things, he says Pickens, who is white, instructed him to terminate two other black kitchen staffers — one she referred to as her “bull” or “ox” and another who had “too much personality.” He says she told him they didn’t “look like people we have working at the country club” and didn’t “fit the image” of the staff she wanted at the ranch.
During a hearing in late December in Reno, U.S. District Judge Miranda Du said that Appling’s lawyers had failed to prove that there was sufficient racial discrimination to win a civil rights claim, aside from the “black people food” remark. Pickens lawyer, Dora Lane, said that the categorization was the same as calling cuisine Thai or Chinese food, adding, “The suggestion that such categorizations are inherently offensive is nonsense.”
Appling’s lawyer Willie Williams wrote in court documents that Lane is ignoring the context for Pickens’ language, for example when “private clubs would use code phrases like ‘they do not fit the image’” to keep out black membership. Du agreed that Lane was ignoring “African-Americans in history and stereotypes that could give rise to racial animas.” Judge Du dismissed the original case, but gave Appling until January 13 to refile an amended complaint against Picken’s non-profit, Save America’s Mustangs.