Public Accommodation Discrimination

The Department of Justice enforces the law that protects you from discrimination while in public places, such as a restaurant or hotel. If you are discriminated against in jail this is not considered public accommodation discrimination. You need to contact the Civil Liberties Union if one of your constitutional rights (the right to an attorney for example) was violated, otherwise contact the Department of Justice.

In a public place it is illegal for a person to treat you differently only because of your race, color, national origin, sex/gender, disability, age, religion/creed, sexual orientation, or retaliation. However, a public place has the right to refuse service to anyone. It is only illegal if they refuse service BECAUSE OF one of the reasons listed below:

  • Race, Color, and National Origin: Everyone belongs to a certain group of people based on physical and cultural characteristics. You cannot be treated differently in a public place because of the group you belong to, the color of your skin, the language you speak, or where you (or your ancestors) were born.
  • Sex/Gender: You cannot be treated differently because you are a male or a female.
  • Disability: Discrimination in pubic places based on mental or physical disability is illegal. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that a public place must maintain reasonable accommodations for a person with a disability. For example, they must have wide enough doors or an incline ramp for someone with a wheelchair.
  • Age: If you are over the age of 18 you cannot be treated differently because of your age.
  • Religion/Creed: You have the freedom to believe in and worship whatever and wherever you wish. However, if the place you are in is owned (even partially) by a religious organization they are allowed to treat people differently based on religion.
  • Sexual Orientation: You may choose any partner (male or female) that you wish and cannot be treated differently because of it. This also prohibits discrimination based on your gender identity. However, if you are in a public place owned (even partially) by a religious organization they are allowed to treat you differently based on your sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Retaliation: It is illegal to treat you differently because you filed a complaint of discrimination or participated in a discrimination case in the past.

What is public accommodation discrimination?

  • You are placed in the back of a restaurant and notice that the only people in the back are other Asian people.
  • You are a Hispanic family and are told there are no open hotel rooms, however a white family behind you in line gets a room that was not previously booked. 
  • You are refused service at a library because you are gay.

What is not public accommodation discrimination?

  • You are asked to leave a place of entertainment because you are causing a scene or got into a fight. 
  • You are banned from a hotel because of poor behavior.
  • You are stopped in a store on suspicion of shoplifting: a store has the right to stop anyone they suspect of shoplifting.