An African American man who says he was asked to pay for his meal before dining at a Washington state restaurant—unlike white diners around him-- has filed a $100,000 discrimination suit against the chain.
Brian Eason, a real estate agent who also serves as a deputy with the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office, went to the Vancouver, Wash. location of Elmer’s—a pacific Northwest chain of diners—on Dec. 16, 2014, reports The Oregonian.
After ordering from the waitress, she “demanded that he prepay for his meal,” according to the lawsuit.
"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 on Wednesday.
At first, Eason says he was unphased but when he ordered another drink and was again asked to pay, he began to question the policy.
"I said 'This is kind of odd that I have to prepay every time I order my food and drink,'" Eason recounted. "
The waitress, who has not been named, reportedly replied , 'I think it's discrimination and my boss is here, and she's forcing me to have me do this.'" The lawsuit says that the waitress acknowledged the policy was “racist.”
Eason says his server was apologetic and he ended up leaving her a tip and a $10 Starbucks gift card. He left Elmer’s but shortly returned after thinking about the waitress’s comments.
Back at the restaurant, Eason asked two white diners if they had been required to pay upfront before receiving their food and was told that they had not.
After the incident, Eason debated about whether to pursue legal action but after many sleepless nights, he says his family persuaded him it was the right thing to do.
"My office is right down the street there," Eason said. "It's a constant reminder of 'They don't want me in there.'"
On Tuesday, Eason filed a lawsuit in the circuit court of the State of Oregon, Multnomah Count, accusing Elmer’s of engaging in discriminatory practices. He is seeking $100,000 in damages due to the fact that he has "suffered loss of sleep and feelings of racial stigmatization” over the incident.
Elmer’s, a Portland based chain, is owned and operated by Karsan which is named as one of the defendants. A representative for Karsan says they are “actively looking” into the incident but would not comment further due to pending litigation.
Jill Ramos, Elmer’s director of restaurant support, provided the following statement to The Oregonian: "At Elmer's, we are proud to provide a welcoming Guest experience to everyone in the communities we serve. We are disappointed to hear about the complaint which occurred at one of our franchise-operated restaurants."