(DALLAS) — Four former managers of IHOP restaurants in Texas are fighting the owner of the franchise they worked for in court, claiming they were wrongfully terminated based on their “nationality and religion.”
The four men, all identified in court papers as “Muslims of Arab descent,” worked as managers at the Dallas/Fort Worth area locations. Hussein Chamseddine was employed by the franchise for 12 years, Rami Saleh and Brandon Adam each for five years, and Chekri Bakro for 24 years.
According to a complaint filed in a Texas district court, the men allege they were fired without cause.
“They weren’t terminated because someone complained or because someone didn’t like their attitude,” said Sara Kane, a civil rights attorney representing the men. “They were fired because of who they are. That is the determining factor.”
All four men were terminated between March and October of 2010. Together they filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which found merit in the men’s claim that they were harassed and terminated due to religion and national origins.
“The IHOP corporation has a four-step disciplinary procedure,” Kane said. “The franchisee did not follow any of those steps.”
Kane, along with attorney Jay Ellwanger, filed suit on behalf of the men on Tuesday, against IHOP and Anthraper Investments, the firm that owns the four franchises involved in Arlington, Burleston, Fort Worth and Plano, Texas.
The suit alleges that the men experienced harassment from Anthraper management, including derogatory comments made by the company’s President and COO John Anthraper, Vice President Alex Anthraper and Texas District Manager Larry Hawker.
Representatives of Anthraper Investments did not return phone calls to ABC News for comment. A woman who answered the phone at the home of John Anthraper said he was out of the country.
The IHOP Corporation issued the following statement regarding the lawsuit: “We believe the employment practices of our company and our independent franchisees are non-discriminatory and inclusive. 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.”
Kane said her clients are seeking back wages and payment for emotional damages following their terminations.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Susan Scutti, CNN
Paul Menser, BizMojo Idaho
Julia Horowitz, CNN