A gay waitress in New Jersey recently made national headlines for being denied a tip because of her sexual orientation. But now, it seems she actually may have perpetrated a tip hoax that spun out of control.
Dayna Morales' allegations initially brought an outpouring of sympathy and donations. But with news of the hoax, Morales has since lost her job and is now returning the donations. Is legal liability to follow?
Anti-Gay Tip Hoax
Morales, a 22-year-old former Marine, first complained about the alleged tip incident on a "Have a Gay Day" Facebook page, posting a photo of a receipt that read, "I'm sorry but I cannot tip because I do not agree with your lifestyle and how you live your life," reports CNN.
The post went viral and Morales transformed overnight into a symbol of LGBT discrimination. Morales claimed the message was on a receipt for $93.55, for a meal ordered by a family of four at the restaurant in Bridgewater, New Jersey.
But then a report on New York's WNBC-TV displayed a receipt from a family -- backed by a credit card statement -- showing an $18 tip on a bill of $93.55 sans anti-gay slur. An internal investigation, albeit inconclusive, led to Morales being fired.
If she really did make the whole thing up, Morales could face a host of legal issues.
For starters, if the family's reputation was unfairly maligned, they could sue Morales for defamation. Given the level of public scrutiny, the family may also have a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED).
Under the theory of respondeat superior, Morales' former employer can potentially be held responsible for her wrongful acts. The restaurant may also be liable in its own right for negligently hiring or training Morales.
Hurting Real Discrimination Victims
Though Morales may have cooked up her anti-gay receipt fiasco, in reality, the "discriminatory receipt" phenomenon is far from fictitious.
From CVS' "Ching Chong Lee" receipt to a steakhouse's N-word receipt slur, discriminatory comments on receipts that target customers or employees are left more often than people realize. Per CNN, as one Facebook user commented, "Whatever the motive, [Morales' tip hoax] is going to harm people who truly are discriminated against. The more this happens, the more the truly maligned will be ignored."