LESSON LEARNED: Since you can’t deny service to Muslims in your restaurant, make sure the service you give them is so bad, they never come back

RC Happy MealA federal judge has denied motions to dismiss a lawsuit that was filed by a Muslim family that claim an International House of Pancakes Restaurant in Connecticut refused to serve them. According to the lawsuit, Tarek Mohamed Khedr, 53, his wife Ikbal Elsayed Elgazzar, 45, and their 12-year-old son went to get breakfast at an IHOP restaurant in Bloomfield March 28, 2015. Elgazzar was wearing a Muslim headbag/hijab.

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CT Law Tribune  The family, who reside in Windsor Locks, checked in with the hostess, requested a window table, and then waited for about 20 to 25 minutes without being seated.  The family claim there were three tables waiting to be cleaned and Khedr politely asked the restaurant’s manager, Richard Vasile, if he could have someone from his staff clean one of the tables.

According to a sworn statement later given by Khedr to the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, he alleged that Vasile “started to look at us up and down with anger, hate, and dirty looks because my wife was wearing a veil, as per our religion of Islam.”

From there, he claims Vasile asked them to leave the restaurant and said he could do so because it was private property and a private business. The lawsuit claims the manager also ordered three of his waiters not to serve them.  A police officer spoke to Vasile, then told the family that the restaurant had the right to remove them from the restaurant with or without a reason.

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 “I was speechless, embarrassed, humiliated, and insulted. I held my anger, trying to hide my feelings in front of my wife and child without saying any word or comment in response, but of course everyone around was well aware of the issue.”

Allegations in the lawsuit include racial discrimination (what ‘race’ is Islam?), unlawful public accommodation discrimination and intentional infliction of emotional distress. 

IHOP’s lawyer, Refai Arefin of East Berlin, filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit. “In the case at bar, plaintiffs failed to allege that other individuals not of their alleged protected class were treated differently,” wrote Arefin in court documents. “Plaintiffs’ complaint also does not contain any allegation in support of a discriminatory motive. Plaintiffs’ complaint states that they ‘believe’ they were refused service based on their race, national origin, or religion.” Arefin could not be reached for comment by press time.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Meyer sided with the plaintiffs and allowed the lawsuit to proceed in a written ruling last week. Meyer said Arefin’s argument “reflects a basic misunderstanding of discrimination law.”

“Although a complaint must allege facts sufficient to establish or infer a discriminatory motive, it need not further identify or allege that other persons were treated differently,” wrote Meyer. “[T]o conclude that proof of differential treatment of others may be relevant and helpful to proving discriminatory motive does not mean—as defendants suggest—that such proof is categorically necessary to sustain a discrimination claim.”

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