*An African-American man who says he was told to prepay for the breakfast he ordered at a restaurant in Vancouver, Ore, while white customers nearby were allowed to pay afterward, has filed a $100,000 discrimination suit against the restaurant chain.
According to OregonLive.com, Brian Eason had gone to the Elmer’s Restaurant on Dec. 16, 2014, to find a quiet place to eat and write Christmas cards to his clients, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Multnomah County Circuit Court.
Eason, 44, is a real estate agent, as well as a deputy with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office. His lawsuit claims that a waitress took his order, then “demanded that he prepay for his meal.”
“I was kind of curious about it and said ‘Well, is that new?’ And she said ‘Yes, we had a few walk-aways and my boss asked me to ask for prepayment,” Eason told The Oregonian/OregonLive on Wednesday.
Eason didn’t think anything of it, he said, until he later ordered another drink and the waitress again wanted prepayment.
“I said ‘This is kind of odd that I have to prepay every time I order my food and drink,'” Eason recounted. “She said, ‘I think it’s discrimination and my boss is here, and she’s forcing me to have me do this.'”
Eason said the waitress was very apologetic, and he felt bad for her. He said he gave her a big tip and one of the $10 Starbucks cards he had planned to send to his clients.
With her comments gnawing at him, he returned to the restaurant 30 minutes later, walked up to a table where two white people were dining and asked whether they’d been required to prepay for their meals. When they said they hadn’t, he asked for their names and phone numbers. They gave them to him.
The restaurant, at 7105 N.E. 40th St., is owned and operated by Karsan, Inc., as a franchise. The suit lists Karsan and parent corporation Elmer’s Restaurants — with headquarters in Portland — as defendants.
An Elmer’s representative said Wednesday that she couldn’t comment on pending litigation, but was “actively looking” into what occurred.
“At Elmer’s, we are proud to provide a welcoming Guest experience to everyone in the communities we serve,” wrote Jill Ramos, the chain’s director of restaurant support. “We are disappointed to hear about the complaint which occurred at one of our franchise-operated restaurants.”
Eason said that after he spoke to the white customers about whether they had to prepay, he still wasn’t sure if he was going to do anything about it. But he couldn’t sleep that night and his family encouraged him to take action, he said.
“My office is right down the street there,” Eason said. “It’s a constant reminder of ‘They don’t want me in there.'”
The suit seeks $100,000 in damages because Eason has “suffered loss of sleep and feelings of racial stigmatization.”