By Courtney Sherwood
PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - A waitress at a restaurant in Washington state told a black Oregon sheriff's deputy to prepay for his breakfast, apologizing for what she admitted was a "discriminatory" policy, according to a lawsuit filed this week.
Multnomah County sheriff's deputy Brian Eason was asked to prepay during his visit last December to an Elmer's restaurant in Vancouver, Washington, his lawyer, Greg Kafoury, said in an interview.
The waitress who asked him to prepay also apologized for what she called the restaurant's "discriminatory" policy, Kafoury said.
Eason agreed to prepay, but later he returned to complain about the request, Kafoury said. At that point, Eason saw a white couple eating near where he had ordered breakfast, and asked if they had been asked to prepay, the attorney said.
"They were somewhat incredulous that anyone would ask such a question. Of course, they were not asked to pre-pay," Kafoury said.
Eason, 44, who is also a real estate agent in the area, is seeking $100,000 in compensation, according to his complaint, filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court on Tuesday.
In 1994, the Denny's restaurant chain agreed to pay more than $54 million to settle similar lawsuits filed by thousands of black customers, Kafoury said.
Neither Karson Inc, which owns and operates the franchise location where Eason was served, nor the Elmer's corporate office in Portland, Oregon, immediately responded to requests for comment.
"There is no Elmer's policy requiring any guest to prepay for their meal," an Elmer's spokeswoman told a local TV station, adding that the company has taken steps to stop the practice of requiring prepayment at Karson Inc-owned locations within the chain.
Elmer's, founded in 1960 in Portland, has 25 restaurants in four states, according to the company's website.
"It's important that young black kids grow up in a world where they know that when they are discriminated against they don't have to take it," Kafoury said. "That was an important part of his decision to file a lawsuit."
(Reporting by Courtney Sherwood in Portland, Oregon; Editing by Eric M. Johnson and Eric Walsh)