The hospitality industry is no stranger to the rules prohibiting discrimination in accommodations. The average restaurant or hotel operator is aware that the establishment cannot deny service to a patron on the basis of a protected status, such as race or gender. What appears to be less well known is that, at least in California, the same business establishments cannot discriminate by providing extra service to a protected status either. This fact is apparent by the continuing trend to hold “Ladies’ Night” events, or special discounts available only to women, for businesses from restaurants to car washes. These bonuses for female patrons may be useful in boosting business, but if the same businesses refuse service or the same discounts to a male patron, they may be in for a rude awakening when they receive a complaint for statutory penalties for violation of California’s Unruh Act and/or The Gender Tax Repeal Act.
In 1959, California enacted the Unruh Civil Rights Act to set forth what now seems like the basic principle that a business establishment cannot discriminate on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, or sexual orientation1. As the illustrative list of protected statuses demonstrates, the Act is intended to protect all persons from arbitrary discrimination.