An anti-gay slur ended up on a cake linked to a Whole Foods in Austin, Texas, and now two lawsuits have been filed.
A Texas pastor filed a lawsuit against Whole Foods on Monday. Jordan Brown says he was given a custom cake that was decorated with an anti-gay sentiment.
Brown told Austin television station KXAN that the employee wrote “Love Wins Fag” on the cake.
Brown, who is an openly gay man, is suing the grocery store for emotional distress, claiming the Austin store is responsible for the actions of its employees.
“Pastor Brown never asked for this to happen. He continues to be overwhelmed by the feelings of pain, anguish and humiliation because of this incident,” his lawyer, Austin Kaplan, said in a statement.
But Whole Foods, which is headquartered in Austin, on Tuesday denied it caused the problem and has filed a countersuit for defamation against Brown and sanctions against his attorney, according to legal documents obtained by CNN.
“The team member wrote ‘Love Wins’ at the top of the cake as requested by the guest and that’s exactly how the cake was packaged and sold at the store. Our team members do not accept or design bakery orders that include language or images that are offensive. Whole Foods Market has a zero tolerance policy for discrimination,” a statement from Whole Foods read.
Brown said he requested that the cake say, “Love Wins,” but received a cake that said “Love Wins Fag” instead. Brown says he was in a rush when he picked up the cake and didn’t notice the gay slur until he was stopped at a light in his car. He said he has ordered many cakes from Whole Foods before and never had an issue.
When he noticed the offensive word on the cake, he said he was humiliated, disappointed and shocked. Overwhelmed with emotion, he didn’t want to return to the store and cause a scene. Brown called the corporate office to tell them what happened and was sent to voice mail. After that, he called the store and spoke to the manager, who apologized and offered him a gift card and replacement cake.
The store manager called him back a few hours later. Brown said the manager said the bakery associate did nothing wrong. There was no apology, and it appeared the offer for the gift card and replacement cake had been revoked, according to the lawsuit.
Whole Foods denies the allegations, stating that it has a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination. The grocery store said the bakery team member who decorated the cake is a member of the LGBTQ community and that other team members confirmed that the cake only said “Love Wins.”
“Our team member wrote ‘Love Wins’ at the top of the cake as requested by the guest, and that’s exactly how the cake was packaged and sold at the store,” Whole Foods said. “Our team members do not accept or design bakery orders that include language or images that are offensive.”
CNN was unable to reach Brown’s lawyer for a comment about the countersuit.
On Tuesday, the grocery store chain released security footage, disputing Brown’s claims.
“After a deeper investigation of Mr. Brown’s claim, we believe his accusations are fraudulent and we intend to take legal action against both Mr. Brown and his attorney,” the company said in a statement.
In a video that Brown’s lawyers published on Monday, Brown shows that the sticker and barcode on the cake have not been tampered with.
However, Whole Foods claims the barcode should have been on top of the box, not on the side.
“After reviewing their 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, which you can view here,” the statement read.
The company says it is standing behind the baker, “who is part of the LGBTQ community.”
That leaves the court of public opinion — the Internet — wondering whose story is correct. On one side are people on social media who speculate Brown’s story is a hoax.
“That handwriting is different and the thickness of the frosting is inconsistent, this is the work of an amateur,” Elinor Wolfa wrote on Twitter.
“You picked it up, paid for it THEN went home and decided to take action?!? No chance this is true,” Jason Grose wrote on Twitter.
Others are standing with Brown, offended by the slur and upset that this would happen. Some have promoted the theory that a second employee got hold of the cake and added the slur before selling it to Brown.
“The icing looks the same color. Could another employee have done that and resealed it with another sticker?” Susan Phillips Borgersrode wrote in a Facebook comment.
“I don’t believe for a second that the pastor wrote the word fag on his own cake, but I do believe it’s entirely possible that a second bakery associate added it after the cake had been finished by the first associate,” Caitlin Samara wrote in a Facebook comment.