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6 Ill. black women sue Denny's for racial discrimination involving rude waitress


CHICAGO -- The corporate owner of the Denny's restaurant chain is being sued again for racial discrimination, this time for an alleged incident at a suburban Chicago restaurant.

Six black women charge that they were mistreated because of their race during a Dec. 7 stop at a Denny's restaurant in Oak Lawn, Ill., according to their lawyer, David Kremin.

The suit contends that six adults and five children stopped into Denny's Oak Lawn restaurant earlier this month, following a Bible study class.

At first, no one approached to seat them, and when a waitress finally did, she threw the menus at them, said Mr. Kremin.

No one returned to take their orders, though other customers in the restaurant were served during the hour the group waited, he said.

A witness said that a "white wait ress was intentionally avoiding serving the African-American table," said Mr. Kremin.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Chicago against Denny's corporate owner, Flagstar Cos., of Spartanburg, S.C., and its Denny's subsidiary.

It seeks to end discriminatory practices at the company, and also seeks an undisclosed amount in compensation and punitive damages. The company-owned restaurant is part of a chain of 1,500 restaurants.

In May, Flagstar settled two racial discrimination suits, agreeing to pay $54.7 million, including legal fees, to hundreds of black customers. The settlement covered acts of racial discrimination against customers that occurred prior to May 24.

As part of the settlement, the company must refer all customer complaints regarding race or national origin to an independent civil rights monitor for analysis.

In response to the new charges, Flagstar issued a statement saying, "Denny's is committed to the fair and equitable treatment of all customers . . . We have notified the civil rights monitor of the alleged incident at Denny's of Oak Lawn for a complete investigation."

Flagstar also is facing a lawsuit filed by two Mexican-Americans, who allege that they were verbally abused because of their ethnic background at a Denny's in Carlsbad, Calif.

When the first racial discrimination suits were filed against Denny's last year, Flagstar was negotiating an agreement with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to increase economic opportunities for African Americans.

As part of the agreement, Flagstar promised to promote blacks in the company and increase the number of Denny's franchises owned by blacks. The plan called for eight minority-owned restaurants by the end of 1994 and 53 by 1997. The company met its quota for 1994.

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