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SMALL BUSINESS NEWS

13 Apr 2015

 

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Can A Business Refuse To Provide Service?

Does a business have the right to refuse to serve anyone for any reason?  That is a question that every business must contend with.  Not knowing the answer to this question could result in bad decisions that could prove costly to the bottom line.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that “all persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accomodations of any place of public accomodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religiion, or national origin.

The Americans with Disabilities Act also prohibits discrimination in public accommodations, making it illegal to refuse service to individuals who are disabled or handicapped.

States constitutions and laws (as well as local ordnances) also prohibits discrimination in any place of public accomodation.   

Given the combined set of laws at the federal, state and local levels businesses cannot refuse to serve someone on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex (or sexual orientation) or disability.  These are referred to as protected groups. 

However, businesses can refuse to provide service based on the following reasons:


Disruption
:  If Individuals are causing trouble or being disruptive they may be asked to leave. 

Limited Capacity:  Businesses with a capacity limit can turn away customers to prevent this limit from being exceeded.  Local ordnances calls for the imposition of fines when imposed limits are violated.

Late Arrivals:  Businesses can refuse service to those who come in just before closing time or after the kitchen is closed.


Non Customers
:  Businesses can request that those who visit their establishment without the intent to make a purchase during their visit to leave. 

Dress Code
:   If you have an established dress code and customers are not properly dressed, you can refuse to provide service.  You cannot turn someone away because they are wearing reasonable religious apparel and you dislike their beliefs.  Dress codes must be tied to a violation of safety standards.  You can establish a dress code that turn someone away for displaying the colors that represent violant gangs.


Bad Hygene
:  Bad hygene is another reason why you may turn smoeone away.  Someone with bad hygene in your establishment has a direct impact on other customers and could adversely impact your business. 

Harassing The Staff:  You have the right to refuse to serve anyone who is harassing your staff. 

Derogatory language:  Customers who openly use derogatory language in your establishment can be denied service.


Degrading Others
:  You can also refuse to provide a service if the request is degrading to others.  If you’re in the bakery business and a customer ask you to bake a cake with language or images that is degrading or demaning to a group of people based on race, color, relition, national origin, sex (or sexual orientation), or disability, you have the right to refuse to provide such service.

Some states laws titled “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” grants individuals and businesses the right to invoke their deeply held religious beliefs as a defense against providing certain services if suied in court.  Learn more about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Consider this recent case against Azucar Bakery in Colorado.

Businesses should clearly establish which policies they will enforce.  Enforcement of the policies should be consistent.  Inconsistent enforcement will create legal challenges.

Consult legal counsel when establishing such policies.

 
 

Sources:
The Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Americans with Disabilities Act
First Amendment


By Jack River

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

  
 

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