Whole Foods Says It Will Sue Pastor Who Accused Worker Of Icing Gay Slur On Cake
Whole Foods is fighting back against a lawsuit filed earlier this week by a pastor who accused a store worker of icing a homophobic slur on a cake.
Jordan Brown, who is gay, alleged that the store in Austin, Texas sold him a custom cake reading, "Love Wins F**."
But in a statement released Tuesday, Whole Foods called the claims "fraudulent" and said it intends to pursue legal action against Brown and his attorney, Austin Kaplan of Kaplan Law Firm, PLLC.
Whole Foods added that the bakery staff member accused of writing a homophobic slur identifies as LGBTQ herself.
Along with their statement, the company posted footage from the store's surveillance camera and said the video was taken around the time Brown said he bought the cake.
The video shows Brown, who is wearing a red shirt, walking up to the cash register and paying for the cake.
Whole Foods wrote in their statement: "After reviewing our security footage of Mr. Brown, it’s clear that the UPC label was in fact on top of the cake box, not on the side of the package. This is evident as the cashier scans the UPC code on top of the box."
Brown previously shared footage showing what he said was the unopened cake box, and the label could be seen on the side, not the top. He claimed it had not been opened, which he said proved that the employee had iced the message herself.
But Whole Foods denied this, adding: "Our bakery team member wrote “Love Wins” at the top of the cake. That’s exactly how the cake was packaged and sold at the store."
It continued: "We stand behind our bakery team member, who is part of the LGBTQ community."
Prior to the statement, Brown's attorney Austin Kaplan told IE.com that Whole Foods' claims that the staff member had not written the message were "not credible," stating that the icing on the cake is of uniform handwriting, and is the exact same color.
Kaplan also asked, rhetorically, that if the words "Love Wins" were written on the upper edge of the cake, "what was supposed to go in the center of the cake?"
Brown, the Austin founder of the LGBT-inclusive church, Church of Open Doors, filed the lawsuit against Whole Foods on Monday, claiming he had "suffered severe emotional distress" when he saw the slur on the cake, which he had picked up to surprise a member of his congregation.
Brown said in a video that he did not notice the message until he was in his vehicle, despite Whole Foods responding that "the top of the cake ... was visible to Mr. Brown through the clear portion of the packaging."
He showed viewers the cake through the clear packaging with the hateful message written across the top.
Warning: The following video contains language some readers might find disturbing.
"The word 'F**' [was] featured prominently in the center of the cake," the lawsuit continues.
"We don't know what the motivation is. We're as shocked as everyone else," Kaplan told IE.com.
Brown said he first attempted to contact the Whole Foods corporate office, but his attorney said he was sent directly to voicemail.
So he then contacted the Whole Foods Team Leader Geoff Nunez directly, and Nunez "was apologetic, stating that this was completely inappropriate and that he planned to terminate whoever had done this," the complaint said.
Brown was reportedly then offered a gift card, and a replacement cake. But when Brown was called back two hours later, Whole Foods had already retracted their apology.
"They had a 54-second voice conversation, in which the supervisor said, 'unfortunately, nothing could be done,'" Kaplan told IE.com
Kaplan said he believed the response comes after no attempt at investigation.
"It's almost more distressing, because it is so unexpected," Kaplan told IE.com.
The complaint affirmed that the African-American man, who has been with his partner for six years, is openly gay.
Brown grew up in a family of church leaders and began preaching at 14 years old. Two years ago, he founded the Church of Open Doors, a progressive Christian-based church that is inclusive of members in the LGBT community.
He also serves as a member of the Austin Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce a, group that represents Austin's LGBT-friendly businesses.
Following Whole Foods' statement on Tuesday afternoon, IE.com reached out to Kaplan Law Firm, PLLC again, but has not yet had a response.