Transgender Woman Files Complaint Over Slur Printed on Check

In Depth

A transgender woman is filing a discrimination complaint against a DC restaurant over a slur printed on her party’s check.

Amira Gray and eight friends were at Bistro 18 in Adams Morgan in August 2013, and when they received their check, they noticed that under the “customer name” section had been typed the words “gay bitches.” They were understandably displeased with this, and brought it to the manager’s attention. What happened next is in some dispute, although the bartender was definitely immediately fired and the check was fully comped. Almost a year later, Gray is now filing a discrimination complaint against Bistro 18 with the help of Lambda Legal.

First off, what kind of an idiot bartender/server doesn’t know which information does or does not wind up showing up on the customer’s check? How stupid can you be not to check for that in a safe context at some point during your employment? Servers and bartenders regularly type comments on kitchen receipts (meaning receipts only the chefs/expo will see) all the time, but that’s something different. Here’s a recent example* courtesy of kinja user intheweeds:

Everyone who’s ever worked in a restaurant has seen those. At the first place I worked as a server, we had a pair of particularly obnoxious regular customers, and one server took the time to write “please kill me” on their food receipt, to the merriment of all involved. But you never, ever, EVER let the curtain be pulled back and let customers see that stuff. What kind of dumbass changes the customer’s name without checking at some point as to whether that’ll show up on the receipt? For a multitude of reasons, she should have been fired, and I’m glad she was fired.

The issue of whether the slur was printed on the receipt is not in doubt — the restaurant fully acknowledges that it was. The only fact about the response to the incident that’s even in dispute is whether Mohammed Elhoda, the manager, apologized profusely for what the bartender had done — he says he did, Gray says he didn’t.

Gray also claims the table was denied service (that “no one ever came to the table,” despite the fact that they rang up a $150 tab, which…what?), and this is where I start casting a little bit of side-eye. Oh, service was slow on a busy night? Welcome to the restaurant industry. I’ve seen way too many tables start shouting about “WE’VE BEEN WAITING FOR A WHOLE TEN MINUTES AND NO ONE HAS SAID ANYTHING!” after 45 seconds not to view that as a red flag. Elhoda acknowledges that service was slow, and claims he personally stepped in and gave the party a free round of drinks to make up for it (a claim that may or may not be provable, depending on whether the drinks were ever punched in to the system). But it’s still possible I’m way off base and that they were deliberately given slow service, in which case good for her for filing.

If Elhoda is telling the truth, I have a hard time with the idea that Bistro 18 should be further on the hook for this. The fact that the issue was dealt with swiftly and decisively, with no diddling around on the restaurant’s part, predisposes me towards their version of events. Several notable LGBT activists in the area agree: blogger Bill Browning of the Bilerico Project is the person who actually called the restaurant to check on the facts, and he came to an even stronger conclusion than I did — as did Rick Rosendall, President of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, and Deacon Maccubbin, founder of the now-closed Lambda Rising bookstore. As Maccubbin points out, Bistro 18 has no history of any sort of discriminatory practices (to be fair, it would not have gone unnoticed in Adams Morgan if they did), and responded to the issue appropriately.

I don’t know for a fact what happened, and neither does anyone else who wasn’t there. Even the people who WERE there are subject to the Rashomon effect. If Gray is telling the truth, she’s clearly in the right. If the restaurant is correct, though, the complaint, and any subsequent lawsuit, would be pretty absurd.

*Those of you wondering why a customer would need to be warned about ordering a skirt steak well done have never seen what happens to a skirt steak (far moreso than most other cuts) when you try to cook it well done.

ETA: This post initially incorrectly stated that Gray’s claim was a lawsuit — this is not true, as it is actually a discrimination complaint, for which Gray could not be awarded any monetary damages. Such complaints are often a prelude to a lawsuit, so it’s possible one will still follow, but none has been filed as of yet. I regret the error.

Image via kinja user intheweeds, reprinted with permission.

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