Getting equal treatment at ‘ladies’ night’
The Century Supper Club in Los Angeles offered “Ladies’ Night” special pricing for their bar. Mark Angelucci and others went to the Supper Club and were charged a $20 cover. Women were admitted free. It reminds me of a bar in Truckee that didn’t charge women on Monday nights. Free admission, free drinks: It made for a packed (and disorderly) house.Gender discrimination Angelucci and others sued the Supper Club, claiming violations of the California Unruh Civil Rights Act and the Gender Tax Repeal Act.The Unruh Act prohibits discrimination by business establishments on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability or medical condition. The Gender Tax Repeal Act provides that “no business establishment of any kind whatsoever may discriminate, with respect to the price charged for services of similar or like kind, against a person because of the person’s gender”. That act came about, I believe, in part due to the unequal charging for dry-cleaning blouses and shirts. In fact, the legislative history of the Gender Tax Repeal Act included studies concluding that, “adult women effectively pay a gender tax which costs each woman about $1,351, annually.”Ladies’ day On the face of it, it would seem that Angelucci and the other men who had to pay to enter the Supper Club had a sure-bang winner of a lawsuit. A business establishment discriminated against them on the basis of their gender. Even Jim Porter could win that lawsuit.Shows you what I know, because Angelucci and the others lost at the trial court. Court of appealThe court of appeal, in reviewing Angelucci’s case, discussed another case where a fellow by the name of Koire tried to have his car washed on “Ladies’ Day” at the State College Car Wash. He was charged more than women. Koire, being a glutton for punishment or a professional litigant, then went to a night club that advertised free admission for women aged 18 21. He was refused.In the Koire case, the California Supreme Court found that sex-based price discounts violate the Unruh Act. So, you ask, how can our man Angelucci lose? Here’s how. In Koire, the supreme court found “ladies’ day” discounts illegal, but added, “at a minimum, men who wish to be charged the same price as women on ‘Ladies’ Day’ must affirmatively assert their right to equal treatment.”Ask and you shall receive The reason Angelucci and the others lost their case against the Supper Club was that the Court of Appeal determined that Angelucci had to ask to be admitted for free. The court wrote, “a plaintiff can only sue for discrimination after actively seeking equal treatment.” So, if Angelucci had made a stink and obnoxiously demanded admission under the women’s pricing, versus just paying the men’s price, he would have won. This is a ridiculous holding placing form over substance.Lessons Two lessons. Guys, if you see a “ladies’ day” special and are in a litigious mood, be sure you ask for the ladies’ price before you sue. Second, the rule of unintended consequences continues: With these two well-intentioned acts, out the door go time-honored “ladies’ day” events. And in time, good-bye Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter • Simon, with offices in Truckee, South Lake Tahoe and Reno. He is a mediator and was the Governor’s appointee to the Bipartisan McPherson Commission and the California Fair Political Practices Commission. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the firm’s Web site, http://www.portersimon.com.
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