Gender Based Discrimination by Businesses

The Law Offices of Steven L. Martin pursues a vigorous consumer law practice to end discriminatory practices perpetuated by local businesses in Los Angeles and Southern California. It is illegal in California for businesses to discriminate on the basis of gender. This includes Ladies’ Night promotions which offer free cover charges to females at night clubs, or promotional discounts for women to receive a car wash or oil change at a lesser rate than what would be charged a male customer.

California’s Long-Held Policy Against Gender Discrimination

The law which prohibits sex discrimination by businesses towards its customers is the Unruh Civil Rights Act (California Civil Code, Section 51). This law states in part that “All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal, and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, or national origin are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.”

The Supreme Court of California based its 1985 decision in Koire v. Metro Car Wash on the Unruh Civil Rights Act in holding that Ladies’ Days and Ladies’ Nights are against the law. A decade later, the California legislature went even further and specifically passed the Gender Tax Repeal Act of 1995 (California Civil Code, Section 51.6), which clearly states that “No business establishment of any kind whatsoever may discriminate, with respect to the price charged for services of similar or like kind, against a person because of the person’s gender.”

Recourse Under the Law

For a violation of either Unruh Civil Rights Act or the Gender Tax Repeal Act, the law allows the injured party to sue the discriminating business and collect the actual damages suffered, as well as any amount determined by the judge or jury from $4,000 up to three times the amount of actual damage, plus attorney’s fees. In most cases, this structure should be enough to compensate the injured person for the discrimination suffered and lead most small businesses to end their offending, discriminatory practice.

The law in this area continues to develop, and the outcome of any particular case may not be certain. For instance, courts have upheld Mother’s Day promotions – even where all females are included as “mothers” – where the intent of the promoter was not to discriminate against solely men or solely in favor of women. Indeed, many courts now require the plaintiff to show that the defendant intentionally discriminated in order to prevail under the law. Being successful in this area of law requires the aid of an attorney who understands the law and takes the time to investigate and prepare a case that persuasively argues for the discontinuation of the discriminatory practice. If you have been discriminated against by a business based on gender, national origin (ethnicity) or any other characteristic protected under the law, contact The Law Offices of Steven L. Martin to pursue justice and right the wrong.