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The Right to Refuse Service

Written By: Laurence M. Vance  |  Posted: Thursday, May 31st, 2012

            Back in 1994, the restaurant chain Denny's settled a class-action racial-discrimination lawsuit for $54.4 million. Although the restaurant is known for always being open and serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner at any time, day or night, black patrons alleged that they had been refused service, forced to wait longer than white customers, charged more than white customers, and asked to prepay for service.

            The agreement resulted from separate lawsuits filed in California and Maryland that were then expanded to include claimants in 48 other states. In California, a black girl alleged that she had been refused the restaurant's customary free birthday meal. In Maryland, six black U.S. Secret Service agents alleged that they had been forced to wait an hour for service while white customers were served ahead of them.

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