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8:34am on Tuesday, 23rd January, 2007:

Discrimination in America


After yesterday's entry on the subject of anti-discrimination laws in the USA, namely that they seemingly don't apply to restaurants, I heard from two QBlog readers who have the advantage of actually living in the country and therefore being somewhat more familiar with its laws than I.

Firstly, Brian Green points out that while it is not illegal to throw people out of your restaurant for no reason whatsoever, it is illegal to throw them out for discriminatory reasons. Even providing poorer service on discriminatory grounds is illegal. Thus, if you have to turn customers away, better roll the dice in front of them to demonstrate that your choice of victim is entirely arbitrary.

Secondly, James Grimmelmann points to Title II of the Civil Rights Act, "now codified at 42 U.S.C.§ 2000a" (I guess this is some kind of techno-speak meaningful to lawyers). It states: ""All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.". He notes that the definition of "public accommodation" specifically includes restaurants.

Hmm, I wonder if this means that Hindus who go into a steak bar can criticise the lack of service offered to them as vegetarians, on the grounds that this is part of their religion?

Whatever, the player I was talking to who experienced this discrimination was certainly of the impression that the company had acted legally, and although he was going to write a letter of complaint to the head office (the restaurant is part of a chain), he didn't expect anything to come of it. None of the 30 or so other people on the channel seemed to think it was illegal, either. So it is that although the US does actually have these laws, not all Americans seem to be aware of them.

I'll tell the person concerned that he probably has a case, but it's going to be hard to prove. "How can you accuse us of being racist when we threw out both a black person and a white person at the same time?".

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Copyright © 2007 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).