02-19-2017  8:52 am      •     

SPOKANE—The federal government is suing a restaurant in Ellensburg after a Black employee contended she was refused a better-paying job because she is a Muslim and because the owner wanted only "hot, White girls" to be cocktail servers.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington.
The lawsuit contends the owner of the Starlight Lounge failed to promote waitress Angela Harper to a cocktail server position because of race and religion.
"I was shocked to realize that I would never be promoted because of my race and religion," Harper said in a news release from the EEOC.
Harper, who wears a headscarf in observance of her Muslim faith, sought the more lucrative cocktail server position, but the owner said she was looking only for "hot, White girls" to be cocktail servers, the EEOC said.
Restaurant owner Doris Morgan denied making the comment, saying it was made to Harper by a disgruntled former manager of the restaurant who no longer works there.
"The Starlight Lounge is a nice, upscale restaurant and lounge," Morgan said in a telephone interview. "It is the most diverse, tolerant business in Ellensburg. We have always hired people of all races and genders."
Morgan said Harper was originally hired as a janitor, then became a dishwasher and finally a waitress during her two years working at the restaurant.
"She was not a good server," Morgan said. "We kept trying to make it work for her."
Harper quit about a year ago, Morgan said.
The Starlight is located downtown in this college town of about 12,000 people.
Morgan has owned the restaurant for about four years, and said she is saddened by the lawsuit.
"I treated her like a daughter," Morgan said of Harper.
Racial and religious discrimination are violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the EEOC said. The agency filed the lawsuit only after first attempting to reach a settlement with Morgan.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages, training on anti-discrimination laws, posting of notices at the work site and
other relief.
"It is disturbing to know that in today's workplace, there are still those employers who place more value on people's skin color or religion than in their capacity as loyal and hardworking employees," said Joan Ehrlich, district director of the EEOC in San Francisco.
"Ms. Harper was well-liked by customers and was a good performer," said her EEOC attorney, William Tamayo. "Not only did the Starlight Lounge lose an excellent employee by pushing her out, it also opened itself up to litigation by breaking the law."
— The Associated Press

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All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. 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Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. 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