Yesterday, the California Supreme Court ruled that businesses charging one sex less for, say, entry or drinks cannot escape legal liability if the discriminated person fails to protest at the time.
In July 2002, Marc Angelucci, Edgar Pacas, Elton Campbell and Jeff Kent were charged $20 entrance fees at the Century Supper Club in Los Angeles while women entered for $15.
The men sued, claiming they'd been discriminated against in violation of the state law that says, "All persons with the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal, and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, marital status, or sexual orientation are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever."
The restaurant claimed that the men had not protested the higher charges at the time and shouldn't be allowed to collect at least $4,000 per violation, as established by the law.
A trial court in LA ruled in favor of the restaurant. The men filed an appeal, and the appellate court ruled against them, in essence calling them professional plaintiffs seeking easy money. The plaintiffs should have complained at the time, the court determined.
But in a forceful slap at LA-based appellate justices, the state's high court reversed the ruling and sided with the men.
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"A business establishment's policy of affording price discounts to female patrons purely on the basis of gender ordinarily constitutes unlawful discrimination against male patrons," it ruled. "All patrons are entitled to equal treatment."
Furthermore, the high court justices said they were "startled" by the lower court's insistence that the men in the case could only claim discrimination if they'd protested at the scene. The court cited historic discrimination against blacks as why that notion made no sense.
"It would be absurd to conclude that such civil-rights act violations occurred only where the African-American patrons expressly demanded that their treatment be equivalent to that accorded the white patrons in those situations," the opinion, written by Chief Justice Ronald George, states. "Actionable discrimination obviously occurred in these early [racial] cases."
As for the potential for abusive litigation by professional plaintiffs, the Supreme Court said that while "we share to some degree the concerned voiced by the trial court and the appellate court," it is the legislature's job to make amendments to the law. Bozo alert: We know some of you guys are scratching your peach fuzz and plotting. But the Supreme Court allows businesses to give discounts to the elderly and children without facing discrimination allegations. In other words, don't even try to order the Norm's 4 p.m. dinner special for senior citizens.