Sizzler burned in lawsuit

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A Queens woman is suing the Forest Hills Sizzler after she said a manager yelled anti-gay slurs and battered her over an argument about a buffet breakfast.

Liza Friedlander alleged that in September 2010, she and a few friends paid for their meals at the steakhouse chain, at 100-27 Metropolitan Ave.

After Friedlander loaded her plate and began walking back to a table, she said a manager accosted her, accusing her of not paying for the meal, according to the suit filed in Queens civil court.

That is when he began arguing with Friedlander, knocked her down with a shove to the chest and began kicking her, yelling [an anti-gay epithet],” the suit said.

“What was supposed to be a relaxing, enjoyable Saturday brunch at Sizzler turned into a horrifying ordeal of discrimination, violence and degradation targeting Liza because she did not conform to the stereotypes of how a woman should look,” Natalie Chin, Friedlander’s lawyer from the gay-rights law firm Lambda Legal, said in a statement.

But Kevin LoNigro, who owns the restaurant, said the suit is a complete fabrication.

“It’s unbelievable. I want to clear my name,” he said. “That is a total, absolute fabrication.”

LoNigro said he filed a police report on the day in question because of Friedlander’s erratic behavior. He said Friedlander became incensed at something and threw a plate at the manager, named Edgar Orellana.

“It went about 25 feet,” LoNigro said. “It almost hit a little girl and then hit the wall.”

LoNigro said the police report will corroborate his story and that Orellana is a hardworking Guatemalan immigrant who has worked at the store for 27 years without incident.

But the suit further alleges that the manager’s actions incited other diners to verbally abuse Friedlander and hurl objects at her.

After the manager left the room, another Sizzler patron paced in front of Friedlander’s table, calling her a “he/she freak” and demanding repeatedly that she leave the Sizzler, the suit said.

A third patron approached Friedlander, called her a “dyke” and threatened to take her outside and sexually assault her, the suit said. He then allegedly returned to his table, picked an object off of it and threw it at Friedlander.

“Just because I don’t appear to be the Sizzler manager’s idea of what a woman should look like doesn’t mean that gives him permission to attack me and allow other customers to join in,” Friedlander said in a statement.

The lawsuit will be a litmus test for anti-bias legislation that aims to hold people accountable in civil court.

NYPD officers arrived at the scene after one of Friedlander’s friends called for help.

The 112th Precinct did not respond to requests to comment on this article.

Lambda Legal is seeking an unspecified dollar amount in compensatory and putative damages.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 11:09 am, October 12, 2011
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