June 13, 2012
By Scottie Thomaston
In 2010, a customer at a Sizzler restaurant in Queens, New York was brutally attacked for being gender non-conforming and a lesbian:
On September 18, 2010, Liza Friedlander and two friends went to a Sizzler restaurant in Forest Hills, Queens for the breakfast buffet.
After paying, Friedlander served herself from the buffet. As Friedlander was walking back toward her table to join her companions, a Sizzler manager aggressively approached her. In front of other restaurant patrons, the manager began yelling at Friedlander, accusing her of not paying for the breakfast buffet. He violently shoved Friedlander in the chest, causing her to fall backward, and kicked her in the legs while yelling for her to get out of the Sizzler and calling her a “fucking dyke.”
The Sizzler dining room quickly devolved into a threatening scene when patrons began terrorizing Ms. Friedlander, with Sizzler patrons screaming at her, spewing homophobic and hate-filled epithets.
A male diner began yelling at Friedlander, calling her a “he-she freak” and demanding that she leave the restaurant. Another man threatened to take Ms. Friedlander outside and sexually assault her, threatening that he would show her “what a dick is.” The man then threw objects at Friedlander. Finally, after police arrived, a battered Friedlander was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital.
Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit against the restaurant alleging discrimination. The complaint alleged violations of the new (at the time) law protecting LGBT people from bias crimes, saying the attacks:
violated the New York City and State Civil and Human Rights Laws because Friedlander was violently attacked and discriminated against based on her actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and sex in a place of public accommodation.
Lambda’s client recently was awarded $25,000 from the restaurant in the case after a judgment was issued. From a Lambda Legal press release, via Pam Spaulding:
Lambda Legal client Liza Friedlander, who was violently attacked while trying to dine with friends at a Forest Hills restaurant owned by Defendant Waroge Met, Ltd., doing business as Sizzler Restaurant 0489, recently recovered $25,000 in a lawsuit filed in Queens County in 2011. The court entered a judgment against the defendant Sizzler Restaurant 0489 and its manager, defendant Edgar Orellana, after those defendants offered to allow judgment to be taken against them.
“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,” said Natalie Chin, Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal. “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.”
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,” said Lambda Legal client Liza Friedlander. “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 was the first case testing the new law.