WASHINGTON – The parent company of the Denny’s Restaurant chain Wednesday donated $900,000 to nine civil rights organizations.
Flagstar Cos. Inc. gave each organization $100,000 to use as it chooses to complete a 1994 settlement of two class-action lawsuits that charged the restaurant chain with racial discrimination.
Recipients include the Fair Housing Council of Greater Washington, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and its Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Urban League, the Southern Christian Leadership Council and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.
The money is part of $1.5 million left over after plaintiffs claimed only part of the $46 million settlement, said John Relman, one of the plaintiff lawyers in the case.
The settlement required that any remaining funds be given to civil rights organizations. An additional $625,000 will be given Thursday to the United Negro College Fund for scholarships in California.
Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Largo, said he is encouraged by Denny’s actions, but added the chain must be monitored to prevent discrimination from resurfacing.
“I think they should be applauded for that progress, but I don’t think anyone should shout, `Hallelujah for Denny’s,’ ” said Wynn, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Denny’s, which has 31 restaurants in Maryland, 25 in Washington and 26 in Virginia, has instituted several changes nationwide as a result of the settlement.
That includes giving employees diversity training, increasing black ownership of restaurants and increasing minority representation on the board of directors, a Flagstar statement said.
The two class-action suits were filed in March 1993 in California on behalf of minority patrons nationwide. The suits alleged that Denny’s managers demanded pre-payment from black customers, refused to seat them, denied them promotional benefits and ejected and locked blacks out of their restaurants.
A month later, an incident at an Annapolis, Md., Denny’s drew public criticism. Six black Secret Service agents said they were denied service for an hour while fellow white agents were served immediately. “I’m glad to see they’re following the terms of the settlement,” Wynn said. “I think the real issue is to make sure there is a continued effort on the part of Denny’s toward a policy of nondiscriminatory practices, diversity and minority business participation.” -30-