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Automobile Lemon Law

Did a business


against you?

What if a store discriminates against me? What are my rights as a customer?

In California businesses are prohibited from discriminating not just against their employees but also against their customers and patrons. California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act was created by the legislature to stop discrimination. The California Supreme Court states the purpose of the Unruh Act was to create and preserve a nondiscriminatory environment in California business establishments.

The Unruh Act specifically makes it illegal for businesses to discriminate on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sexual orientation, citizenship, primary language, and immigration status. It further grants that all individuals in California are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.

Many people understand and recognize blatant forms for discrimination. For example: a store refusing an individual service because of his/her race. However, the protections afforded by the Unruh Act go much further. They address many more subtle and nuanced forms of discrimination that may not seem like discrimination at all.

For example a bar may have a promotion where on Mondays women get drinks half off. This may not seem like discrimination. It just seems like a special promotion to get woman to come to the bar. However, this in fact is discriminating against men because they are not afforded equal accommodations and privileges. They are denied special pricing solely because of their sex. This would be a violation of the Unruh Act.

Other examples could include a doctor failing to treat a patient who was diagnosed as HIV positive. Or a visually impaired person being told their service animal is not permitted in a store. The law has far reaching affects and is meant to prevent all arbitrary and intentional acts of discrimination based on personal characteristics by businesses. It should be noted that the law does not protect against misconduct. In other words, inappropriate, rude, disruptive and harmful behavior by an individual can be grounds for a business to refuse that individual service.

What is a business under the Unruh Civil Rights Act?

The law is meant to apply to all business establishments. These can include hotels, motels, nonprofit organizations that have a business purpose, restaurants, theaters, hospitals, bars, nightclubs, retail stores, barber shops, salons, grocery stores, housing accommodations, and public agencies. Additionally, the law may also apply to the government and its agencies in certain circumstances.

What can I get if a business discriminates against me?

If you are the victim of discrimination and the business violated the Unruh Act, you are entitled to compensation. The law provides for up to three times your actual damages and no less $4,000 statutory damages per violation. You may also be entitled to punitive damages. Additionally, the law has a provision that requires the business pay your attorney’s fee and costs when they have violated the Act.


If you think you have been the victim of discrimination by a business establishment or housing entity, don’t hesitate to contact us. You may be entitled to compensation for the businesses improper behavior. Remember, discrimination can come in various forms that may not seem like discrimination at all. We know what to look for and how to spot these cases. Contact us for a free evaluation.  

Thank you for submitting your inquiry. A firm member will contact you to follow up shortly after we review your information to see if we can assist you. If you do not receive a response within 48 hours, please call our firm to ensure your message was received. 

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