When You Are Refused Service

Posted on August 4th, 2020 in Civil Right

You’ve likely seen the signs in storefront windows reading, “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service.” While that has been accepted as the societal norm of proper conduct inside public establishments, many wonder when does a common sense refusal of service become an infringement of personal rights? Here’s what you need to know when you are refused service.

Legal Standing on Refusal of Service

Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, privately owned places that offer public accommodations cannot discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin. This includes lodging, restaurants, theaters, banks, gyms, and stores. However, nonprofit organizations like houses of religious worship are exempt from the law.

But what happens when a business owner has a legitimate reason to refuse service to a customer? For example, as part of COVID-19 mandates across the Keystone State, masks are now mandatory to be worn where social distancing cannot be achieved. The only exception to the mask mandate is for those under 2 years of age or who have a medical condition that prohibits them from safely wearing a mask.

While some forms of service refusal are permissible, you can’t simply stick a sign in the window of a business that says, “We have a right to refuse service to anyone,” there are ways business owners can legally refuse service.

The first is that the refusal of service stipulation must be consistent across clients. For example, a fine dining restaurant may not permit jeans to be worn in the establishment. This can be followed across genders, religions, etc. as it sets decorum. 

In addition, there may be capacity limitations on how many customers may be in a store at once. So long as the shop then lets more people in once numbers have gone down, this temporary refusal of service is okay.

The key to these service policies is that it must apply to all people while not being discriminatory–inadvertently or blatantly– based upon race, gender, sex, or religion. For example, you cannot say headscarves or coverings cannot be worn inside an establishment as it may be discriminatory to Muslims.

So now that you know what can happen in public accommodations, what can be done when you are refused service?

Discrimination In Public Accommodations: Kalinoski Law Offices, P.C.

If you have been refused service in public accommodation, know that you do not have to feel shame, or that you cannot seek legal action. To file a complaint, you will need to fill out documentation from the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission which details the discrimination.

You will be asked to provide details of when and where the discriminatory act occurred, what fueled the event–ie. was it discrimination based on race, sex, gender, etc. In addition, if the individual who denied you service spoke to you and gave reasoning for the discrimination, you will be asked to share that as part of the investigation.

Remember, if there is a legitimate reason service was denied that had nothing to do with discriminatory practices, you do not have a case. But when a blatant attack against you is made because of your status in a protected class resulting in the denial of service, you need Kalinoski Law Offices.

When You Are Refused Service, You Need Attorney Craig Kalinoski

Scranton civil rights attorney Craig Kalinoski is here for you in your discrimination in public accommodations case. If you were denied service in a place of public accommodation, you need the legal support of Scranton lawyer Craig Kalinoski. He will protect your rights and seek answers. Contact us today.

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