PROVIDENCE – The United States Attorney’s Office and the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights (RICHR) today announced they have jointly resolved investigations into complaints that the Cranston Portuguese Club engaged in a pattern or practice of illegal discrimination against people of Cambodian ancestry. The investigations addressed allegations the Cranston Portuguese Club violated Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Rhode Island General Law § 11-24-1, et seq.
Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination because on race, color, religion, or national origin in certain places of public accommodation, such as hotels, restaurants, and places of entertainment. Under Title II, the Department of Justice can obtain injunctive relief that changes policies and practices to remedy customer discrimination.
Information was brought to the attention of the United States Attorney’s Office and RICHR that, prior to 2017, the Cranston Portuguese Club had a policy and practice of asking first-time patrons if they were of Cambodian descent. If the patron indicated that he or she was Cambodian, the Club contacted the Cranston Police Department to inquire about detail officers for the event. If the Police Department dispatched detail officers to the event, the Club imposed the charges for the detail officers on the patron.
The Club maintained that its practice of requiring a police detail was based on what it understood to be direction from the Police Department dating to the 1990’s. The investigation concluded that individuals of Cambodian ancestry were required by the Club to pay for detail officers for their weddings, birthday parties, and graduation celebrations. The Club did not follow this policy or practice for patrons who were not of Cambodian ancestry.
Pursuant to a Settlement Agreement, the Cranston Portuguese Club will establish a victim fund to compensate aggrieved persons from December 10, 2005, pursuant to R.I.G.L. §§ 11-24-4, 28-5-24; post a framed apology to the Rhode Island Cambodian community; and provide training for all officers and members. Members of the Cambodian community who incurred charges for detail officers for events held at the Cranston Portuguese Social Club from December 10, 2005 to the present, should contact RICHR at 401-222-4477.
United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman commented, “Discrimination against an individual or group based on their national origin, as was the case here, is simply wrong and against the law. This Office, both independently and working with partners such as the Rhode Island Commission on Human Rights, is committed to addressing claims of discrimination in our communities.”
Michael Evora, Executive Director of RICHR added, “The Commission was pleased to work with the United States Attorney’s Office on this important matter of discrimination, and we look forward to combining our efforts in the future should the occasion to do so arise.”
At the request of the Cranston Police Department, the Department of Justice also provided technical assistance to the Cranston Police Department regarding their detail policy and obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to ensure that those policies are current and compliant with Title VI.
The matter was litigated by Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy R. Romero and RICHR staff attorney Francis A. Gaschen.
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