FLUSHING, New York City—A Flushing restaurant accused of religious discrimination could be facing legal trouble and a hefty fine. Lucky Joy Restaurant was served notice of a discrimination complaint by the Human Rights Commission on July 15.
According to Betsy Herzog, Director of Communications for the Commission, the restaurant could face up to $250,000 in penalties if the claims of religious discrimination are found to be true.
The complaint was filed by Zhenyu Sun, who says that on June 2 Lucky Joy Restaurant refused to serve her, a friend, and her eight-year-old daughter because they practice Falun Gong, a peaceful spiritual practice banned in China. Sun says the three were then "kicked out" of the restaurant by employees.
"Two servers came over [to us] and they said 'Oh, you are Falun Gong—we don't want to sell anything to Falun Gong," said Sun.
Sun, a biologist from Connecticut, was accompanied by a friend wearing a bright yellow Falun Gong t-shirt with writing in Chinese and English.
When Sun asked why, the employees answered that it was their boss’s policy and refused to give further answers.
“I feel really sad for these people,” said Sun. “Although they live in the United States, still, they don’t know the rights people have in the U.S. … that discrimination of people [based on their] belief and race are illegal.”
Afterwards, Sun filed a complaint with the New York Commission on Human Rights. Despite a letter from the Commission confirming the complaint was served last week, management at Lucky Joy Restaurant claims that they haven’t received a copy of it.
Civil Rights Violations
The restaurant might also be in violation of Title II of the Civil Rights Act which strictly prohibits discrimination in places such as hotels and restaurants on the grounds of religious belief. The Title includes protective provisions for customers of public places.
Also, according to the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Housing and Civil Enforcement Section, a lawsuit can be brought by the U.S. Department of Justice. The Department of Justice can bring a lawsuit under Title II if a pattern or practice of discrimination in violation of the Title is found to exist.
In addition to possible civil rights violations, Lucky Joy Restaurant is also under fire from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. During a June 26 health inspection, the restaurant received 168 violation points for health and sanitary issues. Twenty-seven violation points is the maximum allowed to pass a health inspection, and 28 points and over is grounds for a re-inspection.
Among the violations found were evidence of mice, roaches, and flying insects, inadequate personal cleanliness, and an unavailable permit to operate the establishment.
Investigations into the complaint against Lucky Joy Restaurant are still underway.