DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Attorneys filed a federal lawsuit against IHOP and a local franchise owner on Tuesday, claiming that the restaurant owners fired four managers across the Metroplex in 2010 because they are Muslim. The attorneys for the four managers said that their clients are still unemployed because of the damage done to their reputations.
The managers worked at IHOP locations in Plano, Burleson, Fort Worth and Arlington -- all owned by Anthraper Investments.
"It became very clear to them that they were no longer wanted," explained attorney James Vagnini, who represents the men in their lawsuit. "One by one, over the course of about four to five months, each of them was fired."
According to the lawsuit, the managers had "performed their jobs without incident" for anywhere between seven to 14 years, enduring harassment about of their religion. "On 9/11, they would get an email from the owner of Anthraper Investments saying, 'Lay low, it's 9/11.' Comments referring to Arabs as dogs. That Arab men don't treat women fairly," said Vagnini.
The lawsuit claims that the situation got worse in 2010. During a meeting, a new district manager allegedly said, "We're going to let these people go and have new faces coming in." By the end of the year, all four Muslim managers were fired. According to the lawsuit, each manager was being fired for a performance issue.
"They've been humiliated beyond anything," said Vagnini. "I've seen 40- and 50-year-old-men break down and cry talking about how they have to explain to their kids in college that they can't afford the next semester because they don't have the job they had."
The plaintiffs filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and an investigation completed in January found "reasonable cause to believe that... Arabs were discriminatorily harassed and discharged based on... national origin." Now, attorneys are suing, hoping that the company will change its ways.
A spokesperson for IHOP said, "We have a long history of supporting diversity in all aspects of our business. Our franchisee believes the allegations are without merit and looks forward to the fair conclusion of this matter."
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