Denny's Hit Hard in Racial Discrimination Lawsuit
By: Mary Ann Pekara
Denny's Restaurant is in the news again, and for the same reason they have been in the news so many times before. The restaurant has once again been sued sued for racial discrimination.
In the latest lawsuit against Denny's, an African American family in East St. Louis, Illinois sued the restaurant chain for racial discrimination and has been awarded $600,000 in damages by a federal jury.
Sandra Green says that when her family went out to eat at Denny's Restaurant, a white waiter deliberately ignored them and used racial slurs when the family finally did get service. Denny's later fired the waiter.
Ed Ordonez, an attorney for Denny's, said that the company has not decided whether or not to appeal the verdict and award.
Each of the fifteen members of the Green family were awarded $5,000 in compensatory damages and $35,000 in punitive damages by the jury in U.S. District Court in East St. Louis.
Janet Hill, a Green family member, says that she hopes that the award by the jury sends a message to the restaurant chain.
Since this is far from the first claim and lawsuit against Denny's Restaurant alleging racial discrimination, it is hard to tell if the message will get through, or if this is just a drop in the bucket for the restaurant chain.
Repeated Occurrences of Racism
In 1991, 18 young African American men decided to eat at a Denny's restaurant in San Jose, California. The group claimed that they were racially discriminated against when the restaurant required them to pre-pay for their meals before being served.
Then, two years later in Annapolis, Maryland, six members of the uniformed division of the U.S. Secret Service filed a lawsuit against Denny's after an incident in which they said they were refused breakfast service by a white waitress because they were black.
After each incident of alleged racial discrimination, Denny's public relations team has gone into damage control mode to try to repair their image. They have routinely apologized, accepted blame and pledged to diligently train its employees to avoid any further incidences of discrimination. In 1993 they ran commercials with employees reciting an anti-discriminatory pledge that they had allegedly all signed.
In 1997, Denny's gave more than $1.5 million to civil rights groups and The United Negro College Fund in an attempt to make amends for racial discrimination. At that time, the restaurant also announced a zero-tolerance for discrimination.
The payments were part of a 1994 settlement agreement covering two class-action discrimination lawsuits against the company.
By December 1995, Denny's had paid out settlements totaling $54 million to over 300,000 people who said they were racially discriminated against at Denny's restaurants.
Since settling their lawsuits in 1995, Denny's says that they have embarked on an aggressive campaign to increase opportunities for minorities. In 1993, Denny's had only one black franchise holder; they now have dozens.