There has been no settlement in the federal civil rights suit against the manager and owners of Matsumoto Restaurant on behalf of Abby Brammer, a Larchmont African American teen, who alleges she was not hired as the restaurant’s greeter on March 20, 2009 because of her race. (See: Hiring Discrimination at Matsumoto? Suit, Protest & Possible Settlement.)
Instead, on September 11, the defendants denied the racial allegations and accused her of waging “a vicious media campaign” against them and their business “by falsifying and fabricating material information.”
Ms. Brammer’s attorney, Larchmont resident Joshua Friedman, said he plans to move for summary judgment of the countersuit, which he believes is in “retaliation for picketing the restaurant and telling her story to the media,” a protected civil rights activity.
Failure to Settle
On October 20, the restaurant did offer Ms. Brammer a financial settlement – a sum upfront plus monthly payments for a year in return for dropping the case, according to Mr. Friedman, who has been representing the Brammers pro bono. “The case did not settle, “ he wrote in an email reaching out to local journalists. There was disagreement on the delayed payout and on the requirement to drop the case.
“Abby will not settle without the restaurant agreeing to be bound to a court order that they will not violate employment discrimination laws in the future,” said Mr. Friedman.
There is a trial date set for June 28, 2010, which would allow Ms. Brammer to appear without missing school. A 2009 graduate of Mamaroneck High School, she is now a freshman at LDS Business College in Utah.
Neither side would reveal the sum under consideration to settle the suit: Mr. Friedman said it was “a modest amount of money to compensate Abby for her loss and to deter other employers from doing this in the future.”
Attorney Benjamin B. Zhu, who represented the restaurant in the recent settlement attempt, referred to the sum as “substantial.” He told the Gazette, “My client is willing to look at any applicant on the same level – whether African American, Caucasian, or whatever.”
“Seeking substantial amounts to settle this case is not appropriate,” said Mr. Xue, “especially since they staged a protest outside the restaurant and the business is now terrible.” He said his understanding is that “business has dropped significantly” since Ms. Brammer and her friends picketed outside the restaurant on June 25, 2009.
The restaurant’s counterclaim states Abby was never an applicant and never interviewed for the job because, like the friend who was vacating the position, she was a senior at Mamaroneck High School and would have to quit to study for exams coming up in July.
This is not entirely consistent with what Matsumoto manager Marty Chen told the Gazette in June. “I am not a discriminating person,” he said. (Mr. Chen, a native of China in this country for around 11 years, is also known as Marty Doe, Marty Chang and Kim Ming Marty Cheng in the legal papers.)
But in June, Mr. Chen told the Gazette that he largely agreed with the narrative supplied by Ms. Brammer’s classmate Rebecca Kitsis in the suit filed against the restaurant. According to Ms. Kitsis, she got approval over the phone from Mr. Chen to begin training her friend as her replacement as a Matsumoto greeter. Later, after observing Ms. Brammer for fifteen minutes, Mr. Chen told Ms. Kitsis he was not a racist, but it would be bad for business to have her friend work in the restaurant. He told the Gazette that he recalled saying that “Maybe, I should have an Oriental feeling environment.”
In the counterclaim filing, the defendants are now denying that the manager gave approval for Ms. Brammer to begin training.
Mr. Chen is no longer speaking to reporters; the restaurant owner, Mr. Zhu Chang, does not speak English.