By Matt Wood
Transgender Law Center assisted two transgender women in Los Angeles who were wrongfully asked to leave a restaurant in Burbank in October. While eating dinner, the two women, Jennifer Reid and Victoria Rose were approached by the restaurant’s manager and asked to leave, allegedly because their clothing was not appropriate for a “family restaurant.” The women rightly believed that they were being targeted because of their gender identity and contacted TLC for information about the law and their rights.
Transgender Law Center explained to Jenny and Victoria that the Unruh Civil Rights Act, California’s public accommodations law, prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity in business establishments – including transgender and gender nonconforming folks alike.
(Any place that provides goods and services to the general public is considered a public accommodation – this includes restaurants, grocery stores, health clinics, hospitals, health clubs, homeless shelters and most social services).
Armed with this information, Jenny called the restaurant’s Regional Manager and demanded a public apology from the restaurant manager, a refund for the meal she and Victoria were unable to finish, and a promise that the restaurant would do remedial training with all of their managers and staff so that no transgender person would face this kind of discrimination.
Less than 24 hours after that conversation, Jenny was contacted by the Regional Manager who made a personal apology and arranged for the Burbank manager to apologize to Jenny and Victoria in the restaurant in front of the Burbank restaurant staff. Jenny and Victoria were also given a refund and extra gift coupons. Even more impressively, Jenny was then contacted by the restaurant’s Regional Human Resources Manager who was impressed with how informed Jenny was, and had decided to use some of the information from Jenny’s conversation with the Regional Manager to institute sensitivity training for all management and staff at the restaurant chain, effective immediately. As a result of Jenny and Victoria’s courageous self-advocacy, this restaurant chain is now on notice that transgender customers must be treated with the same dignity and respect afforded to all other customers.
Jenny and Victoria’s experience is an example of how transgender and gender nonconforming people often experience discrimination in their communities when accessing public accommodations, including being refused service, being treated differently than their non-transgender peers, or being victims to harmful verbal and physical violence when simply trying to carry out their daily activities.
If you need legal assistance, please call the TLC legal hotline at (415) 865-0176 x306, or via the online intake form at: http://transgenderlawcenter.org/help
Matt Wood is a staff attorney at Transgender Law Center