Legal Question in Business Law in California

Discrimination in business with the public

We board a horse at a city park that is run under a license agreement with a private concession. Under the contract with the city discrimination is strictly prohibited, yet the concession operator refuses to allow boarders not receiving lessons (at an additonal cost) to utilize the public park equestrian center to its fullest. The city refuses to acknowledge the problem after they have been aware of the problem for some time. If a law suit for discrimination is started is it possible to get attorney fees if I was to prevail in court. There are numerous other problems concerning the facilities ie. poor maintenance, unsafe conditions etc, yet the City refuses to acknowledge these issues although they have been notified numerous times.

Asked on 2/08/06, 11:34 pm

3 Answers from Attorneys

Edward Hoffman Law Offices of Edward A. Hoffman

Re: Discrimination in business with the public

To win a discrimination lawsuit you would have to prove that the business discriminates against people on the basis of race, religion, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, etc. The business you describe isn't doing this. It applies the same rules to everyone.

Yes, the business technically discriminates against people who haven't had lessons, but such discrimination is legal. An analogous situation is a club which won't let anyone buy a meal in its dining room in unless he first buys a membership.

Is the company being unfair to those who don't need lessons? Maybe, but the law does not require it to be fair. Is its policy unwise? Again the answer is maybe, but businesses are not legally required to operate wisely.

I don't see a case here based upon the limited facts you have provided.

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Answered on 2/08/06, 11:56 pm
Bryan Whipple Bryan R. R. Whipple, Attorney at Law

Re: Discrimination in business with the public

I agree with Mr. Hoffman. "Discrimination" has taken on a special meaning in the civil rights context. It means "discrimination based upon certain factors which the Supreme Court has held violate equal rights under the 14th Amendment" and not "discrimination based upon nature of past business transactions with us." The concessionaire is making distinctions between classes of customers consistent with some possibly-valid business purpose, and not breaking a Constitutional prohibition. I'm sure a court would also find that the concessionaire was not prohibited from doing this under its contract with the City.

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Answered on 2/09/06, 2:41 am
Carl Starrett Law Offices of Carl H. Starrett II

Re: Discrimination in business with the public

As the other responses correctly point out, only certain types os discrimination. If I don't want to hire a receptionis with a purple mohawk because it wouldn't look professional to my clients, that could be discrimination and it would be legal. However, I do believe there is one issue that the other respones overlooked. What are the EXACT terms of the contract between the City and the vendor?

The contract might explicitly give the vendor authority to adopt such rules and regulations. If you have a beef about the rule or the conditions of the facility, go to the city council and complain publicly. Based on what you described, however, it doesn't sound like you have much of a case.

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Answered on 2/09/06, 9:19 am

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