Lawsuit: Teen with autism kicked out of NJ movie theater over bathroom gender flap
🚻 NJ mom brought special needs son to movie theater bathroom
🚻 An angry manager berated them for using the women’s room, suit says
🚻 Manager yelled that it wasn’t a “transgender bathroom” and called police
HAZLET — The mother of a teen son with autism has filed a lawsuit against a movie theater chain after what she describes as a traumatizing confrontation with a local theater manager.
Last month, Christine Gallinaro said she took her 15-year-old son to the Cinemark Hazlet 12 — only to be berated by the manager on duty for using a women’s bathroom, as there was no family restroom option.
The manager then directed an employee to call Hazlet police on the mother and son, while demanding they leave.
"My son was humiliated and harassed for going to the bathroom,” Gallinaro said in a written statement to New Jersey 101.5 on Wednesday, adding “What happened is outrageous and appalling."
🚻 After bathroom trip, manager yelled at NJ mom and special needs son
The Holmdel family had been frequent patrons of the theater along Route 35, as movies have been a favorite interest for the teen, who has speech delays and requires additional care.
During their June 16 outing to see “Elemental,” the teen let Gallinaro know he had to visit the restroom.
On previous visits, Gallinaro’s husband had accompanied his son to the men’s restroom — but this time, Gallinaro’s husband was not there.
As there is no “family restroom” at the Hazlet theater, Gallinaro brought her son to the women’s restroom, twice at his request, the suit said.
Gallinaro said to NJ 101.5 that her go-to is "absolutely a family bathroom" whenever available.
The second trip, after the teen had washed his hands, the theater manager angrily confronted the mother and son, according to the complaint filed in Monmouth County Superior Court this week.
The manager, who was named as a defendant, shouted to the teen and his mother that “he shouldn’t be in here” and “that a ‘grown man’ should not be in the women’s restroom," the discrimination lawsuit says.
The outburst continued in the theater’s lobby, which is very close to the bathrooms, where the manager said “this is not a transgender bathroom” while ordering the Gallinaros to leave.
She then directed an assistant manager, who also has been named as a defendant, to call local police and have the family removed from the theater.
That employee followed his boss’ orders, though Gallinaro said he told her that he “didn’t agree with what she did.”
🚻 No apology from Cinemark before lawsuit filed in NJ
Following the incident on June 16, there was no apology from Cinemark and no further contact from the movie theater chain until after Gallinaro notified them of the pending lawsuit on Friday.
She said Cinemark's regional director then called her on Monday — at which point Gallinaro said she appreciated the call but was seeking legal counsel.
A request for comment from Cinemark was not answered on Wednesday.
🚻 ‘May no other family experience and witness what my son did’ mom says
In her lawsuit, Gallinaro said that during the public confrontation at the theater, her son was visibly distressed.
She said that in the weeks since, he has “apologized multiple times” about the incident and has refused to use the bathroom by himself in their own home — which he had never done before.
"Let this be a message to Cinemark and a precedent for all major corporations and businesses. It’s 2023, autism is not going away and we can do better here," Gallinaro said in her email response on Wednesday.
"There needs to be family bathrooms installed in these locations and robust sensitivity training immediately.”
“All people including the disabled have a right to go to a public bathroom with dignity and respect with safety for all remaining a top priority," Gallinaro said. “May no other family experience and witness what my son did on June 16th."
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