Which Business And Public Accommodations Protections Are Available Under California Law?
Business and public accommodations protections are some of the oldest civil rights protections. The Civil Rights Act of 1866, which guaranteed all citizens of the United States equal protections under the law regardless of who they are, was the earliest of the Civil Rights laws and paved the way for much of the civil rights legislation in America up until today.
For business and public accommodations protections specific to the state of California, we have the Unruh Civil Rights Act, which provides that all citizens of the state are free, equal, and entitled to equal accommodations and privileges in any business. Citizens can’t be provided with different services because they have different races, religions, genders, colors, political affiliations, and so on.
What Are Common Violations Of Business And Public Accommodations Protections In California?
There are quite a few common violations of business and public accommodation protections in California. One of the most common examples attorneys see relates to racial discrimination. Historically, many businesses would not allow people of color into their establishment. However, changes in the law requiring protection from racial discrimination meant these businesses had to begin allowing people of color inside their establishments. To adapt to these new civil rights protections, many businesses would provide people of color with alternative accommodations and services. For example, they might be forced to sit in a different section or pay a different price. Today, we see much fewer cases of overt racial discrimination. However, while overt racial discrimination is now less common, it continues through more subtle means. As a result, the civil rights violations we see nowadays are much more subtle and sometimes harder to prove.
As experienced attorneys, we have many examples of instances like this happening today. For example, we have handled cases where a business representative prohibits a member of a particular race from using the restroom without buying something, while simultaneously allowing members of the other races to use the restroom for free. In other examples, people of a certain color or ethnicity, will be required to prepay at an establishment before getting service. In these cases, unequal treatment is typically rooted in implicit biases or unconscious discrimination against someone due to their race, gender, or other aspects of their identity.
If a clerk at a store makes an inappropriate comment about someone’s religion, the person has a claim against the business for violating their civil rights. Whether or not the business has an explicit policy against the behavior does not matter if it has occurred. The same thing would apply if an employee wrote a racist message on a customer’s receipt or if any other protected civil right was violated. The examples we see today are much less overt and more subtle than the examples that were prevalent in previous generations, but it still happens. Ultimately, there is an inexhaustible list of examples of racism and gender discrimination as a violation of business and public accommodation protections in California.
What Are Potential Remedies For Violation Of Business And Public Accommodation Protections?
The basic remedy for violations of business and public accommodation protections would be monetary compensation for the offense. This includes compensation for emotional distress, medical expenses, and any out-of-pocket costs incurred. They would also be entitled to reimbursement for litigation costs, attorney fees if the case warranted it, and punitive damages. Certain violations also cover what is called trebled damages. With trebled damages, an aggrieved person can bring a claim and get three times the amount of their actual damages. Additionally, statutory damage or statutory penalty is a process in which the law provides a set amount of damages regardless of whether you prove you incurred them or not. With the statutory penalty process, depending on the type of case, you could be compensated with penalties against the perpetrator ranging from $4,000 to $25,000 per offense. These would be some of the more common remedies.
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