NYC Restaurant Pays $25K to Lambda Legal Client After Antigay Attack

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June 13, 2012
Lambda Legal client Liza Friedlander

A Lambda Legal client who was violently attacked while trying to dine with friends at a New York City restaurant has recovered $25,000.

On September 18, 2010, Liza Friedlander and two friends went to the breakfast buffet at Sizzler Restaurant 0489, in the Forest Hills section of Queens. What was intended as a relaxing, enjoyable meal turned into a horrifying ordeal of discrimination, violence and degradation. In front of other restaurant patrons, restaurant manager Edgar Orellana shoved Friedlander in the chest, causing her to fall backward, and kicked her while yelling for her to get out of the restaurant and calling her a "fucking dyke."

The dining room quickly devolved into a threatening scene when patrons began terrorizing Friedlander, screaming at her, and spewing homophobic and hate-filled epithets. A male diner yelled at her, called her a "he-she freak" and demanded that she leave the restaurant. Another man threw objects at Friedlander. He threatened to take Friedlander outside and sexually assault her, saying he would show her "what a dick is." Fearful for Friedlander's safety, her friends frantically called 911, as did others at the restaurant during this terrifying ordeal. Police arrived, and a bruised and battered Friedlander was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital.

In 2011, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit on Friedlander's behalf against Waroge Met, Ltd., doing business as Sizzler Restaurant 0489, and Orellana. The complaint stated that the defendants violated the New York City and State Civil and Human Rights Laws because Friedlander was violently attacked and discriminated against in a place of public accommodation based on her actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and sex.

The court entered a judgment against the defendants after they offered to allow judgment to be taken against them. Under New York case law, there is "no distinction" between a "judgment on consent," entered against defendants here, "and a judgment rendered after trial and entered upon a verdict or a decision."

Says Friedlander:

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.

Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Natalie Chin says:

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.

More about the case here and here.