Originally created 06/19/97

Denny's suit dismissed



PITTSBURGH (AP) - A judge has cleared the Denny's restaurant chain of an allegation that a couple got poor service because they were black.

U.S. District Judge Donald Ziegler ruled Monday that the poor service was due to short-staffing at a Denny's restaurant in suburban Pittsburgh.

He dismissed lawsuits by James and Deidre Gelzhiser and five others who were dining with them. The Gelzhisers said they waited more than one hour for a seat and were served burned food when they did eat.

In his ruling, Ziegler noted that one waitress who was on the overnight schedule left work on Oct. 9, 1994.

"Although the manager had scheduled four waitresses to serve the projected 57 patrons ... , from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. he was left with three waitresses to serve 83 patrons," Ziegler said.

"There is no evidence that other African-American patrons were improperly treated, were served improperly cooked food, were given slow service or complained regarding the service," he said.

The judge noted that Mrs. Gelzhiser of Verona complained that her chicken fingers were only "a little brown."

"Denny's has worked hard to achieve its policy of nondiscrimination. I am pleased that its efforts have been vindicated here," said Rosyln Litman, an attorney for the chain in Pittsburgh.

In 1995, Flagstar Companies Inc. of Spartanburg, S.C., owner of Denny's Inc., paid more than $45 million to settle two class-action lawsuits that accused the restaurant chain of racial discrimination in California and Maryland.