Discrimination in California Business Establishments: What to do if you are denied service at a business because of your sex, color, race, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, marital status, or sexual orientation or to persons regardless of their genetic information,
Unruh Civil Right Act
In California, restaurants, hotels, and any other business establishments are prohibited from engaging in discrimination in providing services. The Unruh Civil Rights Act provides a legal remedy to anyone denied the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments. Even though the Unruh Act itself only specifies sex, color, race, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, marital status, or sexual orientation or to persons regardless of their genetic information, it has been held by California courts to apply to other forms of discrimination as well. Yet certain types of discrimination are permissible. For example, price discounts based on age (students or seniors) have been permissible based on public policy. A person who is denied a service by a business establishment is entitled to recover treble damages and maybe also recover punitive damages in certain circumstances. In order to have a valid claim certain elements must be met: (1) A person must prove that he/she was denied full and equal services by a business; (2) a substantial motivating reason for the denial must have been the business’ perception of the person’s protected status. If these two elements are met, a person is entitled to a minimum statutory recovery of $4,000 per violation. Furthermore, if a person can prove the violations caused actual damages, they may be entitled to three times the amount of damages. A successfully plaintiff is also entitled to an award of attorney’s fees. Courts can also issue an order prohibiting the business from engaging in further violations. A claim under the Unruh Act must be brought within two years of the violation. However, you should not delay in contacting an attorney to start the claims process and to preserve any evidence.
What to do if you are a victim of discrimination by a business establishment
There are two ways to redress Unruh Act violations. First, contact an attorney who represents individuals in civil rights or employment and housing violations. Second, if you are unable to find an attorney who is willing to take your case, contact the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing to file a complaint against the business. Calvin Chang is an attorney licensed to practice law in California. He represents employees and individuals in civil rights, employment and housing discrimination cases. www.calvinchanglaw.com.