Denny's restaurant chain denied Justice Department accusations of discriminating against blacks Friday but agreed to train its employees in racial sensitivity and use minorities in commercials to settle a government lawsuit.
The proposed four-year settlement program, filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, does not affect a class-action damage suit filed Wednesday by 32 customers claiming that Denny's required blacks to pay a cover charge or prepay for meals and denied a black girl a free birthday meal.
The Justice Department suit cited some of the same incidents in alleging that Denny's and its parent company, TW Services Inc., "treat black customers less favorably than white customers and discourage black persons from visiting their restaurants."
The suit mentioned six occasions on which Denny's in San Jose, San Diego, Santa Clara and Sacramento required prepayment of blacks but, in most cases, not of whites. One San Jose restaurant had police remove three black high school students and an East Indian, telling them there were "too many of you people here," the suit said. It said blacks in Vallejo and San Jose were denied free birthday meals on the same terms as whites.
Denny's said earlier in the week that complaints were related to late-night procedures at some restaurants with security concerns. The chain, based in Spartanburg, S.C., said it eliminated those procedures at company-owned restaurants more than a year ago.