This post has been updated.  All updates appear at the bottom.

 

Before you decide to go out for breakfast this weekend you should know that it seems that Denny’s Restaurant hasn’t learned their lesson when it comes to Black people.

On Monday, February 1, more commonly referred to as the first day of Black History Month, a trial is set to start in Los Angeles regarding yet another case of discrimination at Denny’s involving African-Americans.

In this case, a Black couple was forced to prepay for their meal at a Koreatown Denny’s.

The incident took place on May 7, 2014 at the Denny’s on Wilshire and Vermont in Los Angeles. Renee Hebert and Henry Williams–both African-American–placed an order but were required to prepay before getting served.  Apparently their waitress and manager were concerned over the amount of food ordered and thought they were going to dine and dash–a phrase used to describe people who come in and order food and leave without paying.

Ali Rahman, the manager of the Denny’s is a defendant in the lawsuit along with Denny’s, Inc. The restaurant where the incident occurred is a company-owned store and not a franchise.

In his deposition, Mr. Rahman admits repeatedly that he asked the couple to prepay and admits that he knew prepayment requests were not permitted under the anti-discrimination and equal accommodation policies. His reasoning according to his testimony is that he had a lapse in judgment and just wasn’t thinking.

Q. So Belkis was the server on May 7th, 2014. How many servers were on the video at that time, if you recall?
A. Three.
Q. Do you know the others’ names?
A. I don’t remember right now.
Q. And Belkis came over to you and said what?
A. Okay. So Belkis came and said that there’s two people that came and ordered a lot of food; and what else did she say to you?
A. Just so like, “What should I do? Should I send the order, or do you want to talk with them?”
Q. Okay. And what did you say?
A. Said we had two guests that are eating, and they ordered a lot of food for two people.
Q. Okay. And do you know why she told you that?
A. We have a few walk-outs, we call them, like people dump, order a lot of food, they don’t pay, and then they leave.
Q. Okay. So Belkis came and said that there’s two people that came and ordered a lot of food; and what else did she say to you?
A. Just so like, “What should I do? Should I send the order, or do you want to talk with them?”
Q. Okay. And what did you say?
A. “Okay. Let me go talk to them.”
Q. And did you go talk to them?

A. Yes.
Q. Okay. And can you describe happened? What did you say to them?
A. I just sat down, and I just how are you guys doing?” And, “You guys, ordered a lot of food, yeah, $80 of food.” So I said, “You ordered a lot of food. Would you like to make a payment before we get the food out to you?”

I honestly don’t even know why this lawsuit is going to trial and wasn’t settled.

As you may remember, Denny’s has a long and rich history of racial discrimination and previously paid $54 million to settle race bias cases under a federal consent decree. Part of the consent decree required Denny’s to implement policies and procedures that prohibit Denny’s from requesting prepayment of any customers.  I guess Mr. Rahman just choose to ignore that part.

Click here to read the complaint.

The trial is scheduled to start on Monday, February 1, 2016 at 9:30 a.m. in Division 51 of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. The couple is being repped by attorney Jonathan Kaplan of Kaplan Weiss LLP.

UPDATE

2/1/2016

The defendant’s counsel (Denny’s) was denied a protective order aka gag order to keep the plaintiffs and their counsel from discussing the case out of court or with the news media.

The jury was selected.  The jury makeup looks like this:

  • 10 Females
  • 2 Males
  • 2 African-Americans
  • 3 Asians
  • 2 Armenians
  • 2 Latinos
  • 3 Whites

…and two female alternates.

Opening statements will take place at 10 a.m. in Department 51 of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. There are plenty of open seats in the courtroom for those interested in this case.

2/2/2016

On day two of the trial Ali Rahman, the manager of Denny’s and a co-defendant in the lawsuit, along with Belkis Leyva, the waitress and Cyndy Crank Denny’s General Manager were all questioned by the plaintiff’s attorney.  On Wednesday, Ali Rahman, who already admitted in a deposition to asking the couple to prepay, will continue his testimony. Others expected to testify are Denny’s District Manager, HR Manager and an independent witness.  The trial may be in the hands of the jury as soon as Friday.

I’ll keep you posted.

2/3/2016

Okay folks so on the third day of trial the Denny’s manager Ali Rahman, who admitted that he asked the plaintiffs to prepay for their food, finished his testimony.  Other testimony included Denny’s General Manager who admitted that he did a limited investigation and failed to speak to the waitress or busboy on shift that night. Denny’s HR Manager and a psychiatrist also took the stand.

The most interesting testimony came from Brad Sax, an independent witness who didn’t know the plaintiffs but overheard the manager asking them to prepay for their food.  He testified that he knew that was wrong and gave them his phone number in case they needed a witness, which obviously they did.  Mr. Sax also testified that approximately two weeks later he was back at the same Denny’s when he saw another African-American being asked to prepay for their food.  This after Denny’s testified that it had never happened before the plaintiff’s incident and it hadn’t occurred since.

 2/4/2016

We saw this coming.  Denny’s has settled their lawsuit with the Black couple forced to prepay for food.

From City News Service…

LOS ANGELES – A black couple and Denny’s Inc. reached a mid-trial settlement Thursday in the pair’s lawsuit alleging the manager of the restaurant chain’s Koreatown location discriminated against them by demanding that they pay for their food in advance.

The resolution came just before the third day of testimony was scheduled to begin in trial of the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court against Denny’s and manager Ali Rahman in August 2014 by Henry Williams and Renee Hebert. Judge Michael Raphael dismissed the jury hearing the case.

The couple declined to comment on the settlement, as did the lawyers on both sides, who said the terms were confidential.

The couple alleged Rahman, the manager of the Denny’s on Vermont Avenue just north of Wilshire Boulevard, targeted them because of their skin color.

Their lawyers said the pair entered the restaurant about 4:15 p.m. on May 7, 2014, and that no other customers were asked to pay in advance for their meals. They also said Williams and Hebert waited far longer than other guests to receive their food.

An internal restaurant video of the incident has been viewed more than 5,000 times since being uploaded to YouTube (that’d be me).

Michael Stein, an attorney for Denny’s and Rahman, said the manager made a mistake with his demand, apologized to the couple and offered to return the $80 Williams gave him.

He said Rahman was concerned after learning from the couple’s server about the size of their order, which totaled more than $83, because the Koreatown location had prior problems with people leaving without paying.

But lawyers for Williams and Hebert said the retraction of the pre-payment demand did not shield Rahman and the restaurant chain can escape liability because it violated both state law and Denny’s own internal rules.

In 1994, Denny’s agreed to pay more than $54 million to settle lawsuits filed by thousands of black customers who had been refused service or been forced to wait longer or pay more than white guests.