New Restroom Policy for Denny’s in Maine
BY Julie Bolcer
July 12 2011 2:35 PM ET
All Denny’s restaurants in Maine will allow customers to use restrooms in accordance with their gender identity under the terms of a settlement with a transgender woman denied access to the women’s restroom in Auburn.
The Sun Journal of Lewiston, Maine, reports on the settlement reached by Realty Resources Hospitality and Brianna Freeman, who was represented by Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders. The policy reversal applies to all Denny’s restaurants in Maine.
The parties reached agreement in March and announced the settlement Monday. An attorney for GLAD declined to discuss other terms of the settlement, including any compensation for Freeman.
In 2007 the manager of the Denny’s in Auburn told Freeman, who had been using the women’s restroom without incident, that a customer had complained. The manager told her that because she had not undergone gender reassignment surgery, she could not be considered a woman and would have to use the men’s restroom, the Sun Journal reports.
Freeman filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission in 2009, which led to her filing suit in Androscoggin County Superior Court.
“Last year, Denny’s sought to dismiss the case but, in ruling against the restaurant chain, Justice William Brodrick wrote that the Maine Human Rights Act is aimed at preventing discrimination in public accommodation on account of sexual orientation, finding that Freeman had ‘adequately plead a claim that Denny’s prohibited her from using the women’s restroom because of her sexual orientation,’” reports the Sun Journal.
The case was cleared to proceed to trial, but attorneys for Denny’s and Freeman worked on the settlement in the past year.
“GLAD is pleased with the results of this case,” said GLAD attorney Janson Wu in a statement issued by the organization. “We’re happy to have had the opportunity to work with business leaders to make Maine’s business establishments open and welcoming to all potential customers.”
Brian Mesley, a spokesman for Realty Resources Hospitality, said, “We recognize and support Ms. Freeman’s gender transition over the past three and half years. Her transition and this lawsuit presented a new issue for us. It has been an educational process, and we reaffirm our commitment to provide top-notch services to all our customers. We believe the resolution of this case will work well for all of our customers and preserved the dignity and safety of all.”
“The bottom line for me and other transgender patrons is that Denny’s has welcomed us to use the restroom that is consistent with how we live our lives,” said Freeman. “That makes good sense. Any other rule is just not workable for anyone.”
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