Public Accommodations

What is the Unruh Civil Rights Act?

The Unruh Civil Rights Act, California Civil Code sections 51 through

51.3, provides protection from discrimination by all business establishments

in California, including housing and public accommodations. California

Civil Code section 51(b) describes the protections found under the Unruh

Civil Rights Act:

All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal, and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sexual orientation, citizenship, primary language, or immigration status are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever. Civil Code section 51(b)

Who is Protected?

The language of the Unruh Civil Rights Act (see above) specifically outlaws

discrimination in housing and public accommodations based on sex, race,

color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, or medical condition.

While the Unruh Civil Rights Act specifically lists “sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, or sexual orientation” as protected

classes, the California Supreme Court has held that protections under the

Unruh Act are not necessarily restricted to these characteristics.

The Act is meant to cover all arbitrary and intentional discrimination by a

business establishment on the basis of personal characteristics similar to

those listed above.

What Businesses Are Covered?

This law requires “Full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities,

privileges or services in all business establishments.” This includes but is not

limited to:

• Hotels and Motels

• Non-Profit Organizations

• Restaurants

• Theaters

• Hospitals

• Barber and Beauty Shops

• Housing Accommodations

• Public Agencies

• Retail Establishments

What Remedies are Available for Victims of Discrimination?

This law provides for a variety of remedies that may include:

• Out-Of-Pocket Expenses

• Cease and Desist Orders

• Damages for Emotional Distress

• Exemplary Damages

Court-ordered damages may include a maximum of three times the amount of the

victim’s actual damages.