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Denny’s hit with discrimination suit; company says it’s taking action

August 22, 1997 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ Ten Syracuse University students are suing the Denny’s restaurant chain for racial discrimination, saying they were denied service, thrown out when they complained and roughed up in the parking lot.

Lawyer Elizabeth OuYang and several plaintiffs charged Thursday that Denny’s had failed to make sure all its employees _ including those in Syracuse _ underwent anti-discrimination training as required by Denny’s 1994 settlement of a class-action lawsuit.

``I think it has not fully implemented and taken seriously what it needs to do,″ OuYang said at a news conference called by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.


Denny’s spokeswoman Karen Randall said the company was outraged by the incident and was firing some employees and disciplining others as a result. Denny’s President John Romandetti expressed ``deep regret″ in a statement Thursday.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Syracuse, seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, alleging that the students _ six Asian-Americans, three blacks and one white _ were denied service at the Syracuse restaurant on April 11 on account of ``race, ethnicity or national origin.″

It says they waited 30 minutes for tables while groups of white patrons were routinely seated, and after they complained they were forcibly ejected by two sheriff’s deputies moonlighting as security guards.

In the parking lot, the lawsuit says, the Asian and black students had a shoving confrontation with the uniformed, armed guards, and then were jeered, racially insulted and physically attacked by 10 or more white youths who came out of the restaurant.

Yoshika Kusada of Mahwah, N.J., one of two students the lawsuit says were knocked unconscious during the melee, broke down in tears as she recalled the incident.

``It may be naive to ask for an end to racism... but this is for real and if allowed to continue we are all in danger,″ she sobbed.

Denny’s, which has 891 company-owned and 716 franchised restaurants nationwide, settled a class-action lawsuit in 1994 for $46 million. That suit was brought by black Secret Service agents and California students who claimed they were discriminated against in separate incidents.

Last week, a Justice Department civil rights monitor who was appointed as part of the 1994 settlement recommended that as a result of the Syracuse incident one of that restaurant’s employees be fired, another suspended and the two guards barred from employment there. Denny’s said it would follow the recommendation.