Places of public accommodation must not discriminate against or segregate patrons because of race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
What Is a Place of Public Accommodation?
In general, places of public accommodation include businesses or places to which the public is invited or that are intended for public use. These places can include government-owned or privately owned facilities and businesses. Examples include the following:
- Hotels, restaurants, bars, casinos, gas stations, theaters, banks, barber/beauty shops, retail stores, hospitals;
- Offices of accountants, lawyers, doctors, insurance agents;
- Bowling alleys, amusement parks, zoos, stadiums, convention centers;
- Health clubs/spas, educational institutions, social service providers;
- Courthouses, jails, parks, bus or train depots, airports.
Places of public accommodation do not include private clubs or other establishments not open to the public.
All people are entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation. Owners cannot discriminate against anyone based on race, color, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, sex, age, or gender identity or expression. However, the law does not prohibit places of accommodation from excluding or removing a person whose conduct is disruptive, offensive, or a direct threat to the health and safety of others.
Also, businesses may require customers to check bags at the door and may enforce a dress code or charge admission fees, so long as these rules are applied equally to all customers and clients.
Owners of places of public accommodation must make buildings accessible to people with disabilities.
In existing facilities, owners must remove architectural barriers when it is “readily achievable,” meaning it can be done “without much difficulty or expense.” Examples of inexpensive, easy steps include installing a bathroom grab bar, ramping steps, rearranging furniture, installing offset hinges to widen a doorway, or painting new lines to create an accessible parking space.
In new facilities, owners must meet state and federal guidelines for accessibility when constructing the facility.
Service animals may accompany people with disabilities, or a person who is training the animal, in places of public accommodation. The animal must be allowed in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go.
Business may not charge a fee or deposit as a condition for admitting a service animal. Places of accommodation may exclude service animals only if the animal is out of control and the animal’s owner fails to control it effectively, or if the animal poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others. However, allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals.
Businesses may offer discounts or special prices to senior citizens, children, or students, and may impose age limits up to age 21. They may offer differential pricing, discounted pricing or special offers based upon sex if used to promote or market the place of public accommodation.
DOES NEVADA LAW PROHIBIT DISCRIMINATION IN PUBLIC ACCOMMODATIONS?
Yes, both federal law and Nevada law prohibit discrimination in public accommodations.
WHAT CAN I DO IF A PLACE OF PUBLIC ACCOMMODATION DISCRIMINATES AGAINST ME?
If you believe you have been the victim of public accommodation discrimination, then you can file a complaint with either the Nevada Equal Rights Commission or the U.S. Department of Justice. You can also file a private lawsuit against the business or facility. Unlike with employment discrimination, you do not have to “exhaust administrative remedies” by waiting for a government agency to investigate your complaint.
What Remedies Are Available?
Under both federal and Nevada law, a court can order the place of public accommodation to stop discriminating against you, as well as against future patrons. It can also order the offending party to pay your attorney’s fees and legal costs. Under Nevada law, plaintiffs can obtain “actual damages” for monetarily compensable injury; however, under federal law no monetary damages are available. Punitive damages are not available under either law.
If the U.S. Department of Justice takes up your case, then it can ask a court for monetary damages and, in some cases, ask for a penalty of $50,000 for a first offense, but the Department of Justice takes up very few cases.