Laundry To Pay $2,500 To Burmese Center In Discrimination Complaint

By Jeff Neumeyer

June 18, 2010 Updated Apr 24, 2010 at 9:07 AM EDT

FORT WAYNE, IN (Indiana's NewsCenter) - An attorney for Fort Wayne's Burmese Advocacy Center put out a plea Thursday for greater acceptance of Burmese refugees still trying to adjust to their new culture.

The comments came at a formal announcement about what a local laundry mat will do to satisfy complaints of discrimination, following a dispute involving Burmese patrons over personal hygiene at the business.

The laundry owner agreed to terms of a settlement, including the payment of $2,500 to the local Burmese center.

It is less clear what efforts will be undertaken to try and help the city’s 7,000 Burmese refugees better understand what's expected of them in this culture.

In early March, the Fort Wayne Metro Human Relations Commission filed a complaint against the Ricker Oil Company, when an employee of its south Calhoun laundry posted a sign saying, "For sanitary purposes, no Burmese patrons allowed".

No one at a Thursday news conference was willing to specify the conduct of Burmese patrons leading to the posting of the sign.

Indiana’s NewsCenter was told some Burmese customers were spitting beetle nut juice and urinating inside the establishment.

In a settlement agreement with Metro, Ricker's owner apologized, agreed to have all his workers put through diversity training, and wrote the local Burmese center a $2,500 check.

The agreement does not require any education of Burmese refugees about personal hygiene, or local health standards.

It's a sensitive subject for Burmese advocates.

Attorney Patrick Proctor/Burmese Advocacy Center: " I’m discouraged that everybody still wants to focus on what was the conduct, and they want to attribute it to a whole culture and race of people. If we start looking at the Burmese as something inferior, they are going to view us as the enemy too, and what does that do? Nothing.”

Officials say the $2,500 dollar donation from Ricker Oil to the Burmese center will help pay to educate local residents about the Burmese culture, and to whatever degree possible, the educational training of Burmese refugees will take place as well.

Mayor Tom Henry says some city money and funds from local foundations are being applied to cultural training for incoming refugees.

Officials with Ricker Oil say the practice of spitting beetle nut juice by some patrons has subsided in the business, but has not stopped entirely.

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