Ex-University Employee Sues Barnes & Noble Over Alleged Racism

A former employee of a South Carolina university is suing Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, alleging he was the victim of racism by a bookstore manager while he was working.

Joshua Gagum, a 28-year-old Black man, filed a lawsuit against the company and the manager—listed only as "Jane Doe"—last week.

In the lawsuit, Gagum's attorney wrote that he was formerly employed by the Coastal Carolina University as its Quality Assurance Specialist. The job required him to conduct an inspection of every room of every building on the university's campus in Conway.

On January 22 in 2019, Gagum was inspecting a room in the university's bookstore when the manager entered and "verbally attacked" him, the lawsuit alleges.

She insinuated that Gagum was planning to steal from the store's "cash room" and refused to acknowledge his credentials, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit adds that the woman repeatedly stated that she couldn't tell if Gagum was an employee despite him wearing a Coastal Carolina University uniform and presenting official credentials.

"Jane Doe said she did not want him in the store or want his kind in there," the lawsuit adds.

The manager then called the police, which the lawsuit alleges she did "because [Gagum] is an African-American male."

The store manager knew or should have known that Gagum was a university employee or at least an independent contractor, the lawsuit alleges.

But she "interfered with his potential employment with CCU by contacting law enforcement or security, escalating the response to his presence in the store, and making false statements and suggestions regarding his conduct in the store," the lawsuit states.

"This was improper and for purposes of furthering Defendant Jane Doe's racist interests."

Gagum suffered "adverse consequences at work as a result and ultimately felt no choice but to resign due [to] the concern for his safety, damage to his relationship with his superiors, and false light in which Defendants case him to CCU," the lawsuit adds.

He suffered "severe and ongoing emotional distress, medical expenses, a loss of enjoyment of lie" as well as the loss of wages and benefits

Gagum is seeking an unspecified amount to compensate him for the emotional distress, lost wages and medical expenses.

"Mr. Gagum and I are confident the South Carolina jurors are up to this challenge and will give him the justice he deserves," his attorney Bryn Sarvis told Newsweek.

Newsweek has contacted Barnes & Noble College Booksellers and Coastal Carolina University for comment.

Update 7/28, 2.30 a.m.: This article has been updated with a comment from Bryn Sarvis.

Barnes and Noble store in New York
People walk by a Barnes & Noble bookstore, January 10, 2019 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Drew Angerer/Getty Images