Homeless man sues Burger King for $1 million over 2015 discrimination incident

Emory Ellis, above, got a ride to the police station and more than three months in jail after he was wrongfully accused of using counterfeit cash after he tried to buy breakfast at Burger King using a $10 bill. (AP)
Updated 17 May 2018
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Homeless man sues Burger King for $1 million over 2015 discrimination incident

BOSTON: Emory Ellis, a black homeless man in Boston, was hungry so he went to Burger King one morning in 2015. But instead of breakfast, Ellis got a ride to the police station and more than three months in jail after he was wrongfully accused of using counterfeit cash, he says.
Now Ellis is suing the fast food giant and franchisee for nearly $1 million, saying he was discriminated against because of his appearance. The lawsuit comes on the heels of recent cases of police being called on black people that have sparked uproar and claims of racial profiling.
Ellis’ attorney said the cashier likely wouldn’t have questioned if the money was real if a white man in a suit handed him the same bill. Even if he did, the cashier probably would have apologized and said he couldn’t accept the cash instead of calling police, attorney Justin Drechsler said.
“A person like me would’ve gotten an apology, but a person like Emory somehow finds his way in handcuffs for trying to pay for his breakfast with real money,” said Drechsler, who’s white.
A Burger King Corp. spokesperson said the company does not tolerate discrimination “of any kind,” but cannot comment on the specifics of the case. The company said the franchisee is responsible for employee training and handling legal matters about the location.
Two Guys Foods, Inc., the franchisee, didn’t immediately return a phone message on Wednesday. A number for the cashier, who’s also named in the complaint, couldn’t be found in public records and it wasn’t immediately clear if he has a lawyer.
Ellis’ lawsuit, which was first reported by digital legal news service Law360, was filed this week in Suffolk Superior Court. He’s seeking $950,000.
Ellis was arrested in November 2015 and charged with forgery of a bank note. His arrest triggered a probation violation and he was held without bail until his final probation violation hearing, according to the lawsuit.
He wasn’t released from jail until February 2016, when prosecutors dropped the forgery charge after the Secret Service concluded Ellis’ bill was real, the lawsuit says.
Ellis, 37, never got his money back, the lawsuit says.
“Nobody deserves to be treated the way that Emory was treated,” Drechsler said.
The lawsuit comes weeks after the arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks and other cases that have shined a spotlight on minorities’ interactions with law enforcement.
Starbucks says its employees will receive racial-bias training after an employee called police on the black men because they hadn’t bought anything.
And at Yale University earlier this month, a white student called campus police about a black graduate student who had fallen asleep while working on a paper.


Taiwan’s ‘selfie queen’ Gigi Wu dies after ravine fall

Updated 22 January 2019
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Taiwan’s ‘selfie queen’ Gigi Wu dies after ravine fall

  • The social media star fell down a ravine in Taiwan’s Yushan national park on Saturday
  • She used a satellite phone to tell friends of the fate that had befallen her

TAIPEI: Taiwanese rescue teams were trying Tuesday to retrieve the body of a dead hiker who became famous on social media for taking selfies on top of mountain peaks dressed in a bikini.
Gigi Wu — dubbed the “Bikini Climber” by fans — used a satellite phone on Saturday to tell friends she had fallen down a ravine in Taiwan’s Yushan national park and badly injured herself.
Rescue helicopters struggled to reach her because of bad weather and officials eventually located her lifeless body on Monday.
“The weather conditions in the mountains are not good, we have asked our rescuers to move the body to a more open space and after the weather clears we will make a request for a helicopter to bring the body down,” Lin Cheng-yi, from the Nantou County Fire and Rescue Services, told reporters.
Officials said Wu had told friends she was unable to move the lower half of her body after a fall of some 20-30 meters (65-100 feet) but was able to give her coordinates.
She is the latest in a string of social media adventure seekers who have met an untimely end.
Last week, the bodies of an Indian couple were found at the bottom of a popular overlook in California’s Yosemite National Park after hikers alerted officials to their camera equipment at the top of the cliff.
New Taipei City native Wu, 36, built up a sizeable social media following through photos of herself at the top of mountains dressed in bikinis.
She usually wore hiking clothes to scale the mountains, only changing into a bikini once she reached the top.
In an interview with local channel FTV last year, she said she had scaled more than 100 peaks in four years.
“I put on a bikini in each one of the 100 mountains. I only have around 97 bikinis so I accidentally repeated some,” she said.
When asked why she did it, she replied: “It just looks so beautiful, what’s not to like?“
While Taiwan is a largely tropical country, it boasts a spine of towering peaks down its middle that regularly top 3,000 meters. In the winter, temperatures routinely drop well below freezing on the mountain slopes.
Lin said their top rescue team hiked for 28 hours to reach the body, only sleeping for three hours because they knew temperatures were rapidly plunging.