Failure to Provide Goods and Services Based on National Origin or Religion
Under the New York City Human Rights Law, it is illegal for a public accommodation to discriminate against you on the basis of your national origin or religion. Any party that provides goods or services to the general public is a public accommodation. The New York City Commission on Human Rights enforces the city law. If you faced a public accommodation's failure to provide goods or services based on your national origin or religion, you should consult an experienced attorney about filing a civil lawsuit. At Phillips & Associates, our New York City religious discrimination lawyers may be able to counsel and represent you.Failure to Provide Goods and Services Based on National Origin or Religion
Under the New York Civil Rights Law, public accommodations include providers of goods or services, as well as facilities, advantages, or privileges, whether they are licensed or unlicensed. They also include licensed or unlicensed places where goods and services are offered, sold, extended, or otherwise made available to the public. There is an exception for clubs that are distinctly private.
Generally, whether a club is considered distinctly private, such that it is permitted by law not to provide goods and services based on national origin or religion, depends on these factors:
- Whether it has established a mechanism to carefully evaluate applicants on any objective or subjective basis;
- Whether it limits the use of its services and facilities to members and the bona fide guests of members;
- Whether it is controlled by its membership;
- Whether it is a nonprofit run only for the members' benefit and pleasure; and
- Whether it directs its publicity only and exclusively to members to inform and guide them.
While some businesses are not aware of this law, when a business is a public accommodation and discriminates against customers based on their actual or perceived national origin or religion, it is more than a customer service issue. It can result in a civil discrimination lawsuit for damages.
Suppose that, for example, you go to a store to buy some tools wearing a hijab, and the storeowner refuses to sell you the tools, claiming that he does not want to provide tools to a Muslim for fear of what you will do with them. This is likely to be public accommodation discrimination based on religion.
For another example, suppose that your fiancée and you want to hold your wedding and wedding reception at an art gallery. You pay your deposit, but then on the day of the wedding when you go to the art gallery to set up, the owner expresses surprise that your fiancée is Iraqi (whether or not she actually is Iraqi — what matters is the perception that she is) and refuses to allow you to set up or hold your wedding and reception there. This may be a failure to provide goods or services based on national origin.
It is illegal for a store to deny you access or refuse you services because you belong to a protected class. It can observe your actions in the store and check your bags to prevent shoplifting, but it cannot do this based on your membership in a protected class, such as your actual or perceived national origin or actual or perceived religion or creed. Similarly, it is illegal for a taxi to refuse to transport you on the basis of your national origin or religion.
You can file a complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights, which is tasked with enforcing the New York City Human Rights Law. The Commission can look into the matter and impose penalties. However, it is also possible to file a civil lawsuit and obtain any remedies that may be available not only under the New York City Human Rights Law but also under common law theories. For example, in the earlier example, if an art gallery refused to allow you to set up for your wedding, you may be able to recover compensatory damages, including your economic losses as a result of not being able to hold your wedding and reception, punitive damages, and injunctive relief.Contact an Experienced Discrimination Lawyer in New York City
In some cases, individuals with multiple protected characteristics are unsure exactly which characteristic is being targeted. For example, a black Muslim woman may not be sure whether she is being denied goods and services due to her race, religion, or gender. An experienced attorney can look at the specific situation, including the public accommodation's words and actions, to determine which violations to allege. If you believe that you have been a victim of a failure to provide goods and services based on national origin or religion in New York City, contact Phillips & Associates at (212) 248-7431 or through our online form for a free consultation. Our attorneys represent people in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, as well as Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties and New Jersey.
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