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Lawyer files suit against IHOP alleging racial discrimination

In late March, Upper Marlboro solo practitioner Jimmy Bell filed a complaint with the Prince George’s County Human Relations Commission for discrimination he allegedly experienced at an IHOP in Capitol Heights.

But mediation was unsuccessful, Bell said Tuesday, leading to him filing a lawsuit against IHOP in Prince George’s County Circuit Court.

“They don’t fully appreciate what happened,” Bell said. “I’m going to show them that a jury will find you can’t do 1950s stuff in 2015.”

The lawsuit repeats the allegations Bell made in his administrative complaint — that Bell, who is black, entered the restaurant an hour before closing time one night in March but was told he could only get carryout despite other people being served at tables.

After arguing with a manager for a few minutes, Bell asked the manager for his name, the reason he denied service and the name of his supervisor.

As the manager was leaving the area, he said, “You darkies always trying to get over on something,” according to the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

The lawsuit claims IHOP violated the Prince George’s County Code and failed to properly train and supervise its staff.

Bell pointed to a recent 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that found a single vulgarity can be severe enough to create a hostile work environment.

“When the manager called me a ‘darkie,’ he played the race card and he played it from the bottom of the deck,” Bell said.

Craig Hoffman, a spokesman for Glendale, California-based IHOP, said the company does not comment on pending litigation but that Capitol Heights restaurant is franchised-owned.

The case is Jimmy A. Bell v. International House of Pancakes LLC, CAL 15-09137.