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Khedr v. IHOP Restaurants, LLC

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

June 22, 2016

TAREK MOHAMED KHEDR, IKBAL ELSAYED ELGAZZAR, and M.K., Plaintiffs,
v.
IHOP RESTAURANTS, LLC, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS

          Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge.

         This case involves a claim of unlawful discrimination by a restaurant that refused to serve an Arab-American family of practicing Muslims. Defendants have moved to dismiss the amended complaint, primarily on grounds that the amended complaint does not plausibly allege a discriminatory motive. I will deny the motion because I conclude that plaintiffs have alleged sufficient facts that give rise to a plausible claim of unlawful discrimination.

         Background

         Plaintiffs are Tarek Mohamed Khedr, Ikbal Elsayed Elgazzar, and their 12-year-old child "M.K." All three plaintiffs are Arab-Americans and live in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. The defendants are IHOP Restaurants, LLC (IHOP), Hartford Management Solutions, LLC (Hartford Management), and Richard Vasile. IHOP owns and operates franchise restaurants known as the "International House of Pancakes, " and Hartford Management manages and operates an IHOP restaurant in Bloomfield, Connecticut, at which Vasile worked as the manager.

         On the morning of Saturday, March 28, 2015, plaintiffs went for a meal to the IHOP restaurant in Bloomfield. Plaintiff Elgazzar was wearing a traditional Muslim Hijab. Plaintiffs checked in with the hostess, requested a window table to have breakfast, and then waited for about 20 to 25 minutes without being seated. There were three tables waiting to be cleaned, and plaintiff Khedr politely asked the restaurant's manager-defendant Vasile-to have someone from his staff clean one of the tables.

         The facts about what happened next are more than adequately alleged in the amended complaint (Doc. #27 at 6 (¶ 18-21)); nevertheless plaintiff Khedr's sworn statement to the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) helps paint a fuller picture of what plaintiffs allegedly experienced that day:

The restaurant manager started to look at us up and down with anger, hate, and dirty looks because my wife was wearing a veil, as per our religion of Islam.
The restaurant manager then asked us to leave the restaurant because it is a private property and a private business saying that he has the legal right to kick us out any time with or without reason. He stated that he would not serve us any food, and I asked him, 'Why sir?' He said again, 'I will not serve you or your family any food.' Furthermore, he ordered his staff (three of his waiters) not to serve 'these people' any food. The employees and customers who overheard the manager were surprised and shocked by this manager's discriminatory attitude directed at my family. I asked the manager for his name, he refused. I was speechless, embarrassed, humiliated, and insulted. I held my anger, trying to hide my feelings in front of my wife and child without saying any word or comment in response, but of course everyone around was well aware of the issue.

Doc. #30-1 at 3.[1] Vasile refused to give plaintiffs his name, and he then demanded that plaintiffs leave the restaurant.

         Khedr called the police. An officer arrived, went inside the restaurant, and spoke to Vasile. The officer told plaintiffs that Vasile had the right to remove plaintiffs from the premises with or without any reason, and that Vasile had requested that plaintiffs not return to the restaurant.

         On the following Monday, Khedr called IHOP's corporate telephone number to lodge a complaint. He spoke with a customer relations representative and received a case number for further follow up, but no further contact from IHOP was received. That afternoon, Khedr received a telephone call from the owner of Hartford Management. The owner asked Khedr not to take any legal action until the owner reported back to him, but no further communications were received from the owner until plaintiffs filed a complaint about two weeks later with the CHRO.

         According to the amended complaint, plaintiffs "were and are still certain that[, ] because they are of Arab descent and practicing Muslims, they had been the targets of racial, national origin, and religious discrimination." The amended complaint alleges several causes of action. Count One alleges denial of the right to make and enforce contracts and of equal benefits of the law, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981.[2] Count Two alleges racial discrimination in a place of public accommodation, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000a. Count Three alleges unlawful public accommodation discrimination, in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 46a-64(a)(l) & (2). The remaining three counts of the amended complaint allege state law claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, tortious misconduct, and breach of contract.

         Discussion

         The background principles governing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss are well established. The Court must accept as true all factual matters alleged in a complaint, although a complaint may not survive unless its factual recitations state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. See, e.g., Ashcroft v. Iqbal,556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Mastafa v. Chevron Corp.,770 F.3d 170, 177 (2d Cir. 2014) (same). The ...


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