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Restaurant pays $25,000 to LGBT patron after violent anti-gay attack

NEW YORK - Lambda Legal client Liza Friedlander, who was violently attacked while trying to dine with friends at a Forest Hills restaurant owned by defendant Waroge Met, Ltd., doing business as Sizzler Restaurant 0489, recently recovered $25,000 in a lawsuit filed in Queens County in 2011.

The court entered a judgment against the defendant Sizzler Restaurant 0489 and its manager, defendant Edgar Orellana, after those defendants offered to allow judgment to be taken against them.

"Liza Friedlander experienced violence, discrimination, and degradation at this restaurant because she did not conform to the stereotypes of how a woman should look. This intolerable behavior is prohibited under the New York State and City human rights laws," said Natalie Chin, staff attorney for Lambda Legal. "The result sends a strong message: Violent and discriminatory behavior motivated by bias against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals or transgender people will not be tolerated. Businesses are not exempt from treating LGBT people with dignity and respect."

Under New York case law, there is "no distinction" between a "judgment on consent," entered against defendants here, "and a judgment rendered after trial and entered upon a verdict or a decision."

"I was attacked and threatened by people yelling terrible anti-LGBT slurs, throwing things at me and threatening to sexually assault me," Friedlander said. "On that day, I felt helpless, humiliated and frightened, but today I'm so proud that I stood up and did something about it. No one should have to go through a nightmare like that."

On Sept. 18, 2010, Friedlander and two friends went to Sizzler Restaurant 0489 in Forest Hills, Queens for the breakfast buffet. What was intended as a relaxing, enjoyable meal turned into a horrifying ordeal of discrimination, violence and degradation.

Defendant Edgar Orellana, in front of other restaurant patrons, shoved Friedlander in the chest, causing her to fall backward, and kicked her while yelling for her to get out of the restaurant and calling her a "f**king dyke."

The dining room quickly devolved into a threatening scene when patrons began terrorizing Friedlander, screaming at her, and spewing homophobic and hate-filled epithets. A male diner yelled at her, called her a "he-she freak" and demanded that she leave the restaurant. Another man threw objects at Friedlander. He threatened to take Friedlander outside and sexually assault her, threatening that he would show her "what a d**k is." Fearful for Friedlander's safety, her friends frantically called 911, as did others at the restaurant during this terrifying ordeal. Police arrived, and a bruised and battered Friedlander was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital.

The complaint filed by Lambda Legal stated that defendants Waroge Met, Ltd., doing business as Sizzler Restaurant 0489, and Edgar Orellana violated the New York City and State Civil and Human Rights Laws because Friedlander was violently attacked and discriminated against in a place of public accommodation based on her actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and sex.

The case is Friedlander v. Waroge Met, Ltd. d/b/a Sizzler Restaurant 0489, Edgar Orellana, et al?.

Natalie Chin, Lambda Legal staff attorney, is handling the case. Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP is co-counsel.