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Forcing a Customer to Prepay Is Asking for a Lawsuit

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on November 03, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's normal to prepay at the drive-thru, but since when do restaurants single out customers and charge in advance of serving food? That's what happened to a regular customer at Elmer's in Oregon. When he was suddenly asked to prepay for his meal, he was surprised, then suspicious, and now he is suing for discrimination, according to Uptown Magazine.

The Prepay Story

Brian Eason, 44, is a sheriff's deputy and real estate agent in Multinomah County, Oregon. He is black. And that is apparently why he was asked to prepay his meal last Christmas Eve when he went to Elmer's to write cards for his clients.

Or at least his waitress thought so, according to Eason. He said she told him, "I think it's discrimination and my boss is ... forcing me to ... do this."

Eason regularly frequents the Elmer's restaurant down the street from work and did so last Christmas Eve. The restaurant manager that night had Eason's waitress demand payment in advance, and she said she felt awkward about it. He later spoke to white customers and discovered no prepayment demand was made of them.

Eason says the incident caused him to lose sleep and a sense of security. He feels stigmatized in his neighborhood. "My office is right down the street there. It's a constant reminder they don't want me in there."

The Response by the Restaurant

The lawsuit names Elmer's Restaurants franchise operator Karsan, Inc. A representative told reporters that she couldn't comment on pending litigation, but was "actively looking" into the incident.

"At Elmer's, we are proud to provide a welcoming Guest experience to everyone in the communities we serve," wrote Jill Ramos, Director of Restaurant Support. "We are disappointed to hear about the complaint which occurred at one of our franchise-operated restaurants."

The Law on Discrimination

Privately owned and operated businesses that offer food to the public are considered public accommodations. They cannot discriminate based on race, according to federal and state statutes.

If you have an experience like Eason's, fight back. Speak to a civil rights attorney.

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