Cranston Portuguese Club to pay the Cambodian people for Discrimination

Cranston, RI  — A joint investigation by the office of Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights (RICHR) and the Department of Justice brought charges against Cranston Portuguese club at 20 Second Avenue and the City of Cranston for the violation of the civil rights act.

Initially, attorney Shannah Kurland at PrYSM (Providence Youth Student Movement) made a complaint to the office of Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights that the club discriminated Cambodian descends by imposing police details fee while non-Cambodians were not.

In print edition on October 30, 2019. Click on image for full PDF online version.

RICHR worked with PrYSM attorney to train volunteers to do what called a “sandwich test”. The test was involved three couples and they were trained to pretend that they were looking to book the venue for their wedding reception. The first couple to visit the club were Cambodian descends, they were asked if they were Cambodian by second question. Then they were required to hire the police details. The second couple visited on a different day were Caucasians, the club representative showed the hall like a normal procedure, but then there was no question asked about the ethnicity or having to hire the police details. The third couple of Cambodian descends were sent, it was repeated again like first couple.

“With this evidence, we felt comfortable to move forward with the case and filled the charges against the club and the city of Cranston because the police was also involved in this illegal practice although they denied it. This was such an extraordinary case. We had never handled anything like in the history of Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights” said Francis Gaschen, Lawyer at RICHR.

After two years, the case settled in March 2019 that included the Cranston Portuguese Club is required to pay back the police detail fees to all Cambodians who held the event(s) at the venue dating back to as far as 2005. The Club is also required to post an apology notice to the Cambodian people at its venue and conduct staff training about the discrimination practice.

Sarath Suong, executive Director of PrYSM said “I think the settlement helpful. But I don’t think it’s fully paid back the dignity of the Cambodian people had lost that caused by the Club’s discrimination practice over the years. It is one of the cases that got exposed. I believe there are other cases that discriminated against the Southeast Asian community. We want to make sure we stay committed to fighting against discrimination for our people”.

The fee paid for the police details was $250 per event. Some individuals held the event at the venue multiple times over the years. If you believe you are entitled to this claim, please contact the Human Rights Commission of Rhode Island at 401-222-7563.

“I am really glad that this brought to light. They cannot take advantage of us no more” said Sarath of CNRP, member of Cambodia’s opposition party who held events at the club regularly.

This lawsuit Michael Evora on behalf of Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights vs. City of Cranston is still on-going with the negotiation for a settlement agreement.