Racial discrimination lawsuit against Fairfield Twp. Applebee’s closes over bankruptcy

The federal lawsuit accusing Applebee’s Bar & Grill of racial discrimination is over.

A Hamilton couple sued Applebee’s and RMH Franchise Corp. last month accusing them of racial discrimination. RMH notified the judge it is bankrupt, and the court closed the case last week.

RELATED: Applebee’s responds to Hamilton couple’s claims that employee didn’t serve them because they’re black

In the case, Natisha and Benneet Harrison said they went to the now-closed Fairfield Twp. restaurant at around 9 p.m. in April 2017 with their two children and were ignored by their server while other diners, including a party of 12, ordered and were served.

The lawsuit claims they were told by another employee their concerns would “fall on deaf ears” if they complained to the manager. The family waited about an hour before they said something, according to the lawsuit.

“While waiting for the manager to arrive, another server, Sean, a white male, assured the Harrisons that they were ‘not tripping,’ that their server was intentionally not waiting on them,” the lawsuit claims.

“Sean explained that (the server) was not waiting on them because they were Black. He told them their server … did not like Black people. Sean warned them that their complaint to the manager would fall on deaf ears because Black customers being poorly served happens ‘all the time.’”

When the manager arrived 20 minutes after that encounter, he allegedly was more interested in which employee told them their server was a racist, according to the lawsuit. He offered to take their order but by that time it was too late in the evening.

RMH has maintained it never condones discrimination of any kind.

“At Applebee’s we have no tolerance for racism or bigotry of any kind and want all to feel welcome in our restaurants. When the alleged incident was brought to our attention in 2017, at a former Applebee’s location, we acted immediately to learn more and investigate,” said Mitch Blocher, president of RMH Franchise Corporation.

“RMH also responded to a notice from the Ohio Civil Rights Commission regarding this matter and on July 26, 2018 the Ohio Civil Rights Commission determined there was no probable cause and closed the matter.”

The couple was seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages and attorney’s fees.

None of the attorneys in this case responded to requests for comment. The judge noted the parties can refile the case “in the future as the parties deem appropriate.”

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