Dick Clark Eatery Is Accused of Bias Against Minorities

by Amanda Bronstad

The kitchen isn't the only place heating up at two restaurants. On Jan. 15, two former employees of Crustacean restaurant in Beverly Hills filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the upscale restaurant, whose clientele includes Warren Beatty and Will Smith. One day later, Burbank-based Dick Clark's Restaurants Inc., a subsidiary of the entertainment group, was hit with a racial discrimination lawsuit filed in Philadelphia by five former employees of Dick Clark's American Bandstand Grill in King of Prussia, Pa.

In both suits, the filers claim the restaurants discouraged the hiring of African-American workers and the seating of African-American patrons allegations both restaurants deny.

Gloria Allred, the lawyer who filed on behalf of the two former Crustacean employees, said recent racial discrimination cases against restaurants reflect owners' belief that some racial groups are bad for business.

"I think certain restaurants think although I'm not saying Crustacean, in particular that if they appear to be all white, they will be considered more prestigious, which is racist in and of itself," Allred said.

Stephen Jaffe, a spokesman for Crustacean, said the two former Crustacean employees originally filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which has been investigating the restaurant since last fall (and which was the subject of a recent Business Journal story). But the EEOC had not yet completed its investigation.

"They were beginning to look foolish for having made these allegations and for not getting support from the EEOC," he said.

In their lawsuit, the former hostesses one African-American and one Caucasian allege that they were encouraged by upper management to seat African-American patrons near the kitchen or on the upper floor. They also claim they were encouraged to make African-American guests wait longer than usual for a seat.

Crustacean disputes those claims.

In the Dick Clark case, five former security bouncers at the restaurant's dance club claim they were fired because they are black.

Marc Carter, chief administrative officer for Dick Clark Restaurants, said that, "What we know of the complaint, what we feel, is that it is completely not true and should not be served."

Housing Crisis

Think those contracts to buy a home are too complicated?

Maybe so. But they're actually protected by trademark laws. The California Association of Realtors won a $1 million judgment in favor of its trademark for all the standard forms needed to buy a home in California.

The association filed a lawsuit in late 2000 against Pasadena-based Equisource Real Estate Inc., which operated the Web site RealtyCity.net, claiming the company used copyrighted forms to sell homes online.

"The state comes up with a form through legislation, but if you make changes to it...you, you can get those things copyrighted," said Debra Ferrier, assistant general counsel for the association.

Executives at Equisource could not be reached for comment.

Staff reporter Amanda Bronstad can be reached at (323) 549-5225 ext. 225, or at abronstad@labusinessjournal.com.

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