Tag: racial discrimination

Southern Hospitality or Racial Discrimination?

By Sarah Berent and Ashley Davidson

More and more, chivalry and civility are relics of a time when men were men, women had fainting spells, and society was governed by proper etiquette. And ever since those damn Yankees tore across the good Ol’ South in the War Between the States, things just haven’t been the same.

The New York Times wrote about today’s schizophrenic take on etiquette following a highly publicized trial in Atlanta, Georgia. The events leading up to the trial began in 2006 when two African-American men sat down at a bar at upscale restaurant, Tavern at Phipps. While the men, a former NBA player and a lawyer, were enjoying their appetizers, the bartender asked if they would kindly give up their seats for two women who were standing behind them. They refused. And although the bartender offered them a free round of drinks if they’d relinquish the seats, they wouldn’t change their minds. So the Tavern’s operating partner phoned the police and had the All-Star and his attorney friend escorted out of the restaurant.

The two gentlemen sued the Tavern for having a racially discriminatory policy masked by a standard of civility. According to them, there were several white males at the bar and none of them were asked to move.

The case went to trial and after deliberating for a mere fifteen minutes, the jury concluded that this was a case of chivalry, not racism.

Like the Times, several media outlets (see here and here) made some mention of the trial, but didn’t delve into the legal niceties of the case.  Was the jury’s decision an aberration in racial discrimination cases?  Though it might depend on the societal mores of the area, the answer is: Not really.   (more…)



A Tipping Scale: When a Gratuity is Illegal


By Somya Kaushik

Years ago, if a waitperson (they were called waiters and waitresses back then) did her job exceptionally well you would tip in appreciation of the fine service. Now, if she simply takes your order, brings your food and periodically asks if “everything is all right?” you are frowned at if you don’t tip generously. The once optional concept of “tipping” has now basically become a mandatory and conventional addition to a diner’s bill.   And there are, in fact, some tips that are completely mandatory — an automatic surcharge for parties of six and more, for example.

But an automatic 18% gratuity for a party of two?

The New York Daily News reported that in May, Abe Shah, a Pakistani, and Hemang Virani, an Indian, had dinner at Baluchi’s, a New York based Indian restaurant; an 18% gratuity was added to their bill without their permission and they are suing in the District Court of the Eastern District of New York.

According to the complaint, Mr. Shah and Mr. Virani both “suspected that an automatic gratuity was not added to every bill because they heard two white women sitting at a neighboring table discussing whether to tip 10% or 15% in light of the poor service they received.” When Mr. Shah spoke to the manager about his added gratuity, the manager admitted that the restaurant had a policy of automatically adding gratuity on the bills of Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi customers because “they never tip.” When they refused to pay the discriminatory automatic gratuity, restaurant employees verbally and physically assaulted them.

Messrs. Shah and Verani are seeking compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorney’s fees and costs, claiming discrimination in a place of public accommodation

The Daily News and others focused on their rightful indignation, but didn’t tell us whether imposing such tips was legal and if not, what particular laws were violated. We investigated.   (more…)


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