Not Enough Flair, Looks Like

Categories: News
This is what it might have looked like when Sabrina Balentine was fired from Razzoo's. Might. Dunno for sure. Hard to say.

Yesterday, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas, on behalf of Sabrina Balentine, who was fired from a Razzoo's Cajun Cafe in Mesquite because she didn't wanna sing no damned "Happy Birthday" to customers. Perhaps I mischaracterize her dismissal: Balentine says she was axed from the restaurant because she's a Jehovah's Witness and did "not participate in birthday celebrations at [the] restaurant due to her religious beliefs," reads the complaint. She offered to cover other tables for the waitstaff that was participating, but Razzoo's, says the suit, "terminated her when she refused to join the birthday celebration."

The Irving-based Razzoo's, the 15-year-old chain with a dozen restaurants in the state and North Carolina, told the Dallas Business Journal it won't comment on pending litigation; this piece of litigation in particular contends the restaurant violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991 when it canned Balentine in August 2005. The EEOC wants "appropriate backpay with prejudgment interest" and other compensation for, among other things, "emotional pain and suffering, inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life and humiliation." Also, the EEOC's attorneys want Razzoo's to pay Balentine punitive damages "for its malicious and reckless conduct."

Incidentally, this isn't the first time the EEOC has gone after Razzoo's: In March 2005, it filed suit against the chain contending it discriminated against...male bartenders. According to this story, it contended in its original complaint then "that Razzoo's committed widespread and flagrant sex discrimination against men through its policy of creating a ratio of 80 percent females and 20 percent males for its bartending staff." The suit alleged the chain fired Don Williams and other male bartenders "because of their sex."

That suit's still pending; indeed, it has blossomed into quite the legal battle, according to documents at the federal courthouse. Razzoo's, of course, denies the allegations but refused for more than a year to turn over to the EEOC documents the government agency requested. In July, there was a lengthy back-and-forth over the request, which continued into last week, when court documents were filed showing the EEOC wants a list of every person employed by Razzoo's at its nine area locations since January 1, 2000--a request Razzoo's considers "vague and overly broad." Just Monday there was movement on the case: A hearing date was set for October 11 in U.S. Magistrate Judge Irma Ramirez's court to see if they can get this issue settled before proceeding with what's turning out to be a pretty extensive--and expensive--legal proceeding.

Meanwhile, Sabrina Balentine and those unemployed male bartenders could always go to work at Chotchkies. --Robert Wilonsky

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