My husband is middle eastern. We moved to a diverse neighborhood in Boston eager to raise our family here and become active members of the community. We went to a local restaurant that gets great reviews and were made to feel unwelcome. We left without being seated and went somewhere else. I felt so bad about how we were treated that I emailed the restaurant telling them of our experience. I titled the email "Racist in Rozzie?" as I was in shock. I wrote to the restaurant only, no other public criticism. The owner responded by banning us from the restaurant and posting my letter on his websiste with my name and photo from facebook with the caption "dear Racist!" I am so upset and frankly concerned for our safety. Is this libel? We were discriminated against yet he turned it around
There are civil rights laws, including Section 1981, which bar individuals and entities from discriminating on the basis of race or color.
In addition to that, you probably also have viable defamation claims here. Those of us on Avvo who handle civil rights cases would be more than happy to consult on a case like this. You should contact someone for advice.
Joshua Erlich is an attorney in Arlington, Virginia. His response to your question is general in nature, as not all the facts are known to him. You should retain an experienced attorney to review all the facts in your case in order to receive advice specific to your case. Mr. Erlich's statement above does not create an attorney/client relationship.
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Typically even with § 1983 a restaurant could ban an individual from a restaurant so long as it is not for an impermissible reason (such as race.) If the owner thought you were were unruly for instance, he or she could ban you. However, the owner couldn't ban all people of Middle Eastern descent. You would have to show that he banned you for your skin tone and not for some other permissible reason.
That said, the post on Facebook sound a lot like libel and you may have a strong defamation claim against the owner. I would suggest contacting one of us on Avvo who works in litigation. After a consultation, an attorney could advise you further and better as to the strength of any potential claim.
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This response is based solely on the facts as you have stated them here:
There is NO possibility of a sound defamation claim against the restaurant based on publication of YOUR letter to the restaurant on the restaurant's website? As a matter of law, it is not possible for you to be libeled by someone's else's publication of YOUR OWN WORDS. Now, if the restaurant owner published something more than your letter, some additional matter that is not originally YOUR words, then you may have something to talk about with an attorney.
But this strikes me as a matter where a cooling off period is in order. You went to the restaurant and were not treated well. That happens all the time, to people of all ethnicities and colors, especially at restaurants that are (at the moment) getting "great reviews." You came outta nowhere the next day with a letter chalking your bad experience up to racism -- a very strong reaction to a bad experience that, based just on your post, did not provide much factual basis for that specific diagnosis. Now you are upset because the owner got offended and used your own words as a pre-emptive strike.
Fact is none of you really wants to spend the next three years arguing about this one bad evening out in court. And none of you will be leaving any significant money on the table by letting go and moving on.
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Although it would not hurt consulting an attorney, merely not being seated may not be actionable. Factors may have been how busy they were or just that they "messed up." Without more, you will have t oprove it was based on a protected class. As far as liable, I do not see any thing that he published being a falsehood. Also, how were you damaged? For a viable liable/slander cause of action you need to show that something was said, recorded, or printed; that was false; published to a third party not protected (an attorney, for example is not publication perse); that caused you measurable damages (so falsehood do not require proving damages damages such as the claim that a person has a venereal disease). If you fail to show one you fail to have a claim.
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