Lambda Legal Files Lawsuit On Behalf of Woman Attacked at Queens Sizzler Restaurant Because of Anti-LGBT Bias

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"What was supposed to be a relaxing, enjoyable brunch at Sizzler turned into a horrifying ordeal of discrimination, violence and degradation targeting Liza because she did not conform to the stereotypes of how a woman should look."

Date

Date: 
07/28/2011

(New York, July 28, 2011) — Lambda Legal filed a discrimination lawsuit today in Queens County Supreme Court against the Sizzler Restaurant in Forest Hills, Queens on behalf of Liza Friedlander, who was violently attacked while trying to dine with friends at her favorite breakfast spot.

"New York just watched hundreds of same-sex couples get married last Sunday. Despite this step toward equality, so many in our community are targeted for violence and harassment because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity," said Natalie Chin, Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal. "What was supposed to be a relaxing, enjoyable Saturday brunch at Sizzler turned into a horrifying ordeal of discrimination, violence and degradation targeting Liza because she did not conform to the stereotypes of how a woman should look."

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.

The complaint filed by Lambda Legal argues that the Forest Hills Sizzler, owned and operated by Waroge Met, Ltd., a Queens-based company, 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.

This case is the first test of the newly enacted bias crime law passed in August 2010 to hold individuals accountable for anti-LGBT violence and intimidation.

"Just because I don’t appear to be the Sizzler manager’s idea of what a woman should look like doesn’t mean that gives him permission to attack me and allow other customers to join in," said Lambda Legal client Liza Friedlander. "My friends and I went in for Saturday brunch just like everyone else in the restaurant that morning, but it turned into a nightmare. No one should have to go through that."

Natalie Chin, Lambda Legal Staff Attorney, is handling the case. Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP is co-counsel.

The case is Friedlander v. Waroge Met, Ltd, d/b/a Sizzler.

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Contact Info

Contact: Jonathan Adams 212-809-8585 ext 267; jadams@lambdalegal.org

Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.