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Public Accommodations Discrimination in California

This content about civil rights was written by a third party and does not represent the views or opinions of Haddad & Sherwin LLP, nor should it be construed as a complete and accurate statement of the law or as legal advice.  For better information about this topic, please contact Haddad & Sherwin LLP.

Everyone should be allowed to enter places open to the public. Sometimes business establishments won’t provide services to individuals who belong to a certain racial group; other times, their facilities are not accessible to persons in wheelchairs. If you identify yourself with the situations described, then you probably have been discriminated against in public accommodations.

The federal government forbids unequal treatment in public accommodations based on color, race, national origin, religion, and disability. A lot of states have also approved anti-discrimination laws and have widened people’s defense by including some other traits to the list of protected characteristics. California is one of them.

California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act forbids discrimination against people by private and public business establishments. It covers housing and public accommodations, such as restaurants, hospitals, retail establishments, banks, and pharmacies.

The Unruh Civil Rights Act states that “All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal” and regardless of their characteristics “are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever. “ This law covers the following traits:

  • Color
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Gender (including pregnancy)
  • Gender expression
  • Gender identity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marital status
  • Primary language
  • Ancestry
  • National origin
  • Immigration status
  • Citizenship
  • Medical condition
  • Disability, physical or mental
  • Genetic information

State’s Supreme Court has stated that this Act doesn’t narrow its protection to the mentioned characteristics. The purpose of this law is to defend people from any intentional and arbitrary acts of discrimination in business establishments founded on personal traits alike.

Situations of Discrimination in Business Establishments and your Civil Rights

  • A coffee shop refuses to give a table to a same-sex couple, although there are free tables available.
  • A dentist declines a patient who has been diagnosed with HIV.
  • An inn charges $90 for fee service solely to Latin-American guests.
  • A bar charges different prices to men and women for the same drinks.
  • A bank doesn’t allow a person with a visual disability to enter the facilities with their service dog.

DFEH against Public Accommodations Discrimination

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) enforces the Unruh Civil Rights Act by investigating discrimination complaints, the prosecution of the Unruh Civil Rights Act infringements, and advising the involved parties to solve complaints.

Additionally, DFEH offers written material and participates in conferences and seminars to educate people about the Unruh Civil Rights Act.

When someone is being unlawfully discriminated against in public accommodations, they may file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or proceed with a private lawsuit.

If a business establishment has unlawfully discriminated against you, it is important to find an experienced attorney that may help you decide the most adequate course of action to obtain positive results.

Haddad & Sherwin LLP has a long, successful track record winning wrongful death and other serious civil rights claims for police and jail officer misconduct, throughout Northern and Central California.  Call or email us for a free consultation.

This content about civil rights was written by a third party and does not represent the views or opinions of Haddad & Sherwin LLP, nor should it be construed as a complete and accurate statement of the law or as legal advice.  For better information about this topic, please contact Haddad & Sherwin LLP.