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7 Orange County Women Allege Racial Discrimination in Cafe Incident

According to a number of sources, including Huffington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and a Facebook post made public by one of the women involved, a group of seven Orange County women are suing Urth Caffé, a small Los Angeles based chain of organic coffeehouses.

In a Facebook post made on April 23, one of the plaintiffs stated "I am completely appalled by the racist and Islamophobic treatment some friends and I were subjected to by staff at Urth Caffé in Laguna Beach last night." The woman, Sarah Farsakh, alleges that she and a group of friends were escorted out of the restaurant by police after refusing to leave when asked by wait staff.

This Facebook post, left by one of the plaintiffs in the pending lawsuit, was the first spark of what has become a national news story. The incident occurred when a group of muslim women, some of whom wearing a hijab, or headscarf, were asked by a waiter to leave the restaurant to make room for new customers. But according to the accounts of these women, they had recently been served their food, and some of the group were going about ordering coffee and dessert.

According to Farsakh "at that time at least a third of the seats in the cafe were vacant. The line to place an order was short. I've been to Urth Caffe before at much busier times and have stayed well over 45 minutes without ever being told to leave."

Furthermore, the policy in question, printed on table placards, pictured above, includes the caveat "if tables are available, you are certainly welcome to enjoy Urth for as long as you desire." The women did not believe themselves to be in violation of the restaurant's policy because they were paying customers still eating at the cafe, and the restaurant appeared to be at least 1/3 empty. They allege the real reason waiters asked them to leave the restaurant is that they appeared "visibly Muslim." Disgusted by this implication, Farsakh and her friends refused to leave and asked to speak with the location's owner instead. They were told the owner was aware of the situation and they were still required to leave. After further refusing to leave Urth Caffé on these grounds the party was escorted off the premises by Laguna Beach police officers. Details regarding the lawsuit itself are scant, but a suit has been filed. Apparently the women will be making discrimination claims under the civil rights act and the fair employment and housing act, as well as seeking damages for loss of dignity.

Media questions are being directed to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a nationwide advocacy group dedicated to fighting anti-Muslim discrimination. As of this publication, neither the restaurant's owners nor the Laguna Beach Police dept, whose officers allegedly escorted the women out, are commenting on the incident.

As always, thank you for reading. If you or someone you know has suffered religious discrimination in the workplace, then don't hesitate to schedule a consultation with one of our knowledgeable employment lawyers today.

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