Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

Applebee's Fires 3 for Racial Profiling

An Applebee's restaurant has fired three employees and temporarily closed after admitting to racially profiling two diners. It's a lesson for all small business owners in the importance of properly training employees, being sure about your facts before accusing people of stealing from you, and social media's power to quickly embarrass you.

Three Million Facebook Views Later

The franchise based in Independence, Missouri had interrupted two women's meal to accuse them of having "dined and dashed" at the restaurant the previous night. Police were called, and, after a loud but relatively civil confrontation, the two women paid for that night's food and left. Then video of the incident went on Facebook.

A quick investigation seems to have followed. According to one of the victims, Applebee's later told her that a staff member remembered "a skinny girl" and "a girl who wore makeup" who'd skipped without paying the previous night. That's not exactly an iron-clad description. An apology has been issued and the store's manager and two other employees have been fired.

Restaurants Can't Discriminate Based on Race

You remember the Sit-in Movement protests of the 1960s? Civil rights and restaurants have some history, and that's why prohibitions on racial discrimination are written into federal (and most states') law.

Federal law prohibits privately owned facilities that offer food, lodging, gasoline or entertainment to the public from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin [ . . .] A place of public accommodation includes many places that are open to the general public and the law requires that everyone has an equal opportunity to enjoy the services, goods, and benefits of the public accommodations.

It's part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, one of the major pieces of civil rights legislation of the twentieth century. Restaurants, bars, lounges, gas stations, and similar entities are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race.

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