When does a restaurant have the right to refuse service?
Recently, several restaurants refused to serve police officers. According to a New York Times article a Dunkin’ Donuts worker in West Hartford, Connecticut announced to a police officer standing in the back of the line that they didn’t serve cops there. It turned out to be a poor joke, and the manager and employee ran after the officer to apologize and offer him a free meal. However, an Arby’s manager in Pembroke Pines, Florida was fired after telling a police officer that an employee refused to serve him (also a poor joke). The article goes on to give other similar instances along with survey data that shows public views of the police are the lowest in 22 years. This is a result of the Black Lives Matter movement that sprang out of instances of police brutality.
From the viewpoint of discrimination, this is an interesting development. The number of protected classes have grown since Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. We now have laws that prevent discrimination based on gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, military and other classifications.
The restaurant industry’s right to refuse service cannot be based on the fact that an individual belongs to any of these protected classes. Otherwise the owner may have discrimination lawsuits to deal with. The purpose of this right is for valid reasons, such as making individuals leave who are causing trouble, being disruptive, are improperly dressed (black tie dinners, no shoes or shirts, etc.) or who are not following the restaurant’s rules.
As an employer, if you have questions about your rights to refuse service, Stephen Hans & Associates will be glad to answer your questions. Our firm represents small business owners in discrimination, employment issues and labor disputes in regulatory actions.