A woman who was violently attacked while dining with friends at a New York Sizzler restaurant has received $25, 000 in compensation.
In September of 2010 Liza Friedlander and her two friends were dining at a Sizzler restaurant (0489) in Queens. This was supposed to be an enjoyable brunch, but what began as a pleasant time soon devolved into a scene of discrimination and violence when the manager of the restaurant, Edgar Orellana, accused Friedlander of not paying her bill.
After a small verbal altercation, and in front of other restaurant goers, the restaurant manager began shouting homophobic slurs and shoved Friedlander in the chest, which caused her to fall to the floor. Thereafter, the manager began to kick her while calling her a “fucking dyke,” apparently in reference to her appearance.
Rather than come to her aid, some restaurant patrons then joined in the attack and, according to court documents, began screaming homophobic epithets at her, including one male diner who called her a “he-she freak.” Another man is reported to have begun throwing things at her while threatening to take her outside and sexually assault her, commenting that he would show her “what a dick is.”
Friedlander’s friends called 911, as did several other patrons. The police arrived and Friedlander was taken to a nearby hospital in order to have her injuries treated.
Lambda Legal subsequently filed a lawsuit on behalf of Friedlander against Waroge Met, Ltd., which does business with Sizzler Restaurant 0489, and against Orellana. The complaint established that the attack violated New York City and State level human rights laws over discrimination in public accommodations on grounds of gender, sexuality, and sex.
Orellana disputed Friedlander’s claims in court, saying that it was she who “freaked out” and attempted to hit him. He denied making homophobic slurs and contended that he removed himself from the situation and went to his office to dial 911.
However, the court entered a judgement against the business and Orellana after the defendants offered to allow judgement to be taken against them rather than going to trial. The court found against the restaurant and Orellana, affirming Friedlander had suffered discrimination and abuse while dining at the restaurant.
Said Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Natalie Chin about this case:
Liza Friedlander experienced violence, discrimination, and degradation at this restaurant because she did not conform to the stereotypes of how a woman should look. This intolerable behavior is prohibited under the New York State and City human rights laws. The result sends a strong message: Violent and discriminatory behavior motivated by bias against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals or transgender people will not be tolerated. Businesses are not exempt from treating LGBT people with dignity and respect.
Friedlander has also issued a comment about the case, saying:
I was attacked and threatened by people yelling terrible anti-LGBT slurs, throwing things at me and threatening to sexually assault me. On that day, I felt helpless, humiliated and frightened, but today I’m so proud that I stood up and did something about it. No one should have to go through a nightmare like that.
This case was the first to test a newly enacted bias crime law, passed in August 2010, that allows victims to sue in civil court.