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NY woman awarded $25,000 in discrimination suit against Sizzler restaurant

Wednesday, June 13, 2012
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A New York woman has been awarded a $25,000 settlement in a discrimination lawsuit against a Sizzler Restaurant in Forest Hills, N.Y., where she was allegedly attacked while trying to dine with friends.

The lawsuit, filed by Lambda Legal on behalf of Liza Friedlander, claimed that Friedlander was targeted because “she did not conform to the stereotypes of how a woman should look.”

Liza Friedlander

According to the complaint, on Sept. 18, 2010, Friedlander and two friends went to the breakfast buffet at Sizzler Restaurant 0489, in the Forest Hills section of Queens, and 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 the 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.”

“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,” Friedlander said.

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