Los Angeles

Legal Battle Between Muslim Women and Urth Caffé Settled

A yearslong legal fight involving seven Muslim women who alleged they were kicked out of a cafe in Orange County because of their appearance ended in a settlement this week, lawyers for both sides said Friday.

Urth Caffé in Laguna Beach will be required to conduct regular diversity trainings and clarify rules on a seating policy, under the settlement agreement.

Urth also agreed to open its cafe all day Saturday, offering free drinks and desserts to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

"My friends and I took this stand to see change and ensure that any type of discriminatory conduct is never accepted or tolerated," Sara Farsakh, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said in a news release. "I'm glad this has led to a positive result and I'm hopeful what happened to us will not be repeated again."

A lawyer for the owners Urth said the cafe already has been training its employees on diversity and has a written seating policy.

"We have diversity training all the time, I would say every 2-3 months, for 20 years," said David Yerulshami, the lawyer representing husband-and-wife cafe owners Shallom and Jilla Berkman. "We embrace all of our customers."

The women, who were all wearing hijabs, were at the cafe on April 22, 2016. They say they were told to leave after having just ordered their coffee and desserts. They say that cafe workers told them there was a 45-minute time limit for tables during busy times and they were told to get up even though they say there were other vacant tables available. They say there were other people there who were not in hijabs who had been there longer than they had been.

While the settlement did not include any monetary compensation, it "sends a strong signal of the legal obligation to treat everyone fairly," said Mohammad Tajsar, staff attorney for American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California who represented the women involved.

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