Phillips & Associates

Discrimination in Public Spaces

Civil Rights Lawyers Representing People Throughout New York City

When you go into a public space in New York City, you are protected against discrimination by the city's anti-discrimination law. You have a right not to be subjected to discrimination based on your membership in certain protected classes, such as race or gender, in connection with your use or enjoyment of services and goods that are held out to the general public. At Phillips & Associates, our New York City discrimination lawyers may be able to represent you in a lawsuit for damages if you have been affected by discrimination in public spaces.

Claims Based on Discrimination in Public Spaces

Any person or organization that provides goods or services to the public is a public accommodation under the New York City Human Rights Law. Public accommodations include hospitals, banks, stores, nail salons, theaters, hotels, restaurants, schools, and taxis. However, distinctly private organizations are exempted from this law. It is illegal under the New York City Human Rights Law for a public accommodation to deny or withhold full and equal enjoyment of goods or services based on membership in certain protected classes, such as disability, color, alienage or citizenship status, national origin, age, gender, gender identity, marital or partnership status, sexual orientation, status as a veteran, religion, or creed.

Under the New York City Human Rights Law, anybody who is aggrieved by an illegal discriminatory practice under the law has a cause of action to sue for damages, including punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief and any other remedies. Parties that are able to sue for these damages include a natural person or natural persons, as well as businesses, partnerships, organizations, group associations, legal representatives, and more.

Discrimination involves treating someone negatively because of his, her, or their membership in a protected class. It can take many different forms, depending on the setting. For example, it could include sexual harassment and unwanted, inappropriate touching by a doctor during a physical exam. For another example, it could include a refusal to serve a transgender person at a restaurant because they are transgender.

In a 2017 case involving the state anti-discrimination law, a same-sex couple sued the owners of a limited liability company that hosted religious and secular weddings on a farm. The woman getting married had used the female pronoun to talk about her fiancée, and the owner said that this was a problem because the farm did not hold same-sex marriages. The couple sued, alleging that the owners had engaged in illegal discriminatory practices based on sexual orientation. The owners argued that the wedding ceremonies occurred on private property under written contracts, so it was not a public accommodation, but the court disagreed, finding that the critical issue is whether the facilities were made available to the public at large.

The New York City Human Rights Law is supposed to be construed liberally so that its broad and remedial aims can be accomplished, even if state and federal civil rights laws with comparably worded provisions have not been construed liberally. Whenever possible, it is supposed to be construed in favor of plaintiffs alleging discrimination to the extent that this construction is reasonably possible.

If you have a disability, you may need a reasonable accommodation to safely and independently go into or use a public accommodation. Providers are supposed to make reasonable efforts to grant access and service to all customers. Reasonable accommodations can require a structural change like building a ramp, or they might involve an alteration in policy, such as allowing a service dog to go with a disabled person into a theater.

Contact an Experienced New York City Lawyer to Understand Your Options

If you are not treated properly in a public space, your response may be a mixture of humiliation, stress, sadness, and anger. It is common for victims of discrimination in public spaces to feel uncertain about the experience that they went through. It is important to speak to an attorney if you believe that you were a victim of discrimination. At Phillips & Associates, our New York City lawyers help clients who have faced discrimination in public spaces. You can contact us at (212) 248-7431 or through our online form for a free consultation. We handle discrimination litigation in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, as well as in Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties and in many areas of New Jersey.

45 Broadway, #620,
New York NY, 10006
Tel: 212-248-7431
Fax: 212-901-2107
Client Reviews
I was a client with this law firm. I can't stress enough how awesome and professional the people are here. Silvia & Erica made me feel so comfortable and welcome. I never had to guess anything. Anytime I call, emailed, or even texted. They were always there. If not they would get back to me as soon as possible. My case was not an easy situation for me but I tell you these guys made it seem like it was. I'm so glad that I use Phillip & Phillip. I thank you guys from the bottom of my heart. I am so grateful to have met such awesome, honest, and caring people. Thank you again. Djuana
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