Lady Justice 3 16-9

A manager of a Denny’s eatery in Koreatown violated his own company policy as well as state law when he targeted a black couple because of their race and asked them to pay in advance for their meal, an attorney alleged Tuesday, but a lawyer for the restaurant chain said the manager apologized for his actions.

The lawyers gave their opening statements in trial of a civil rights suit against filed in Los Angeles Superior Court against the restaurant chain in August 2014 by Renee Hebert and Henry Williams.

According to their attorney, Jonathan Kaplan, the couple had lean incomes and lived in a modest apartment. Hebert was once homeless and Williams has had run-ins with the law, Kaplan said.

But Ali Rahman, the manager of the Denny’s on Vermont Avenue just north of Wilshire Boulevard, was unaware of the backgrounds of the couple when they visited the eatery  about 4:15 p.m. on May 7, 2014, Kaplan said.

“He knew nothing about them except for the color of their skin,” Kaplan said.

Kaplan said the couple’s server notified Rahman after Williams and Hebert placed a large order. According to the defense attorneys’ court papers, the order totaled more than $83 and included requests for a pot roast dinner, a chicken fried steak with seasoned fries, several different breakfasts, two strawberry lemonades and a raspberry iced tea.

Kaplan said the two ordered a large amount of food because they intended to take some of it with them when they left and share it with others at home. He said the two were caught off guard when Rahman pulled up a chair next to their booth and asked them to pay in advance for their selections.

“They were surprised, they were shocked, they were extremely confused,” Kaplan said.

Nonetheless, Williams gave Rahman a cash payment, Kaplan said.

The couple waited a lengthy period of time for their meals, Kaplan said. Although their order was eventually delivered, they ultimately decided they had had enough and asked that all of it be boxed to take with them, Kaplan said.

Kaplan said although the Denny’s policy forbids asking that customers pre-pay for their meals, Rahman received only a write-up for what he did. Rahman’s boss thought even that punishment was too severe, Kaplan said.

An internal surveillance video recorded Rahman’s actions deliberating about what to do and ultimately going to the couple’s table, Kaplan said.

But Denny’s attorney Michael Stein said Rahman visited the couple’s table several more times, apologized and offered to return the money he took from Williams. He said Rahman was not a racist.

In his court papers, Stein stated that Rahman was concerned about the size of the plaintiffs’ order because the Koreatown location has had problems with customers leaving without paying for their food.

Stein said Hebert and Williams had prior visits to the same restaurant and did not complain of mistreatment. Other black customers were present the day the couple had their encounter with Rahman and they were not asked to pre- pay for their food, Stein said.

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.

— Wire reports 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.