Relman, Dane & Colfax has litigated a wide variety of public accommodations discrimination cases against hotels, restaurants, retail stores, and other places of public accommodations. The firm’s public accommodations challenges have involved refusals to provide African Americans service, harassment of African-American customers, and providing inferior service to African Americans. The firm has filed class action and individual claims on behalf of victims of public accommodations discrimination in federal courts throughout the country, including throughout the south where the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s was symbolized by challenges to segregation in places of public accommodations such as lunch counters. Recognizing the importance of continuing the tradition of ensuring equal access to restaurants, hotels, and stores, our attorneys have been lead counsel in well-known public accommodations discrimination cases. Those cases have included Dyson v. Denny’s Inc., a nationwide class action race discrimination law suit against Denny’s Restaurants that settled for $17.725 million; Gilliam v. HBE Corp. (d/b/a Adam’s Mark Hotel), a challenge to discriminatory treatment of African-American guests at the Adam’s Mark Hotel during the 1999 Black College Reunion in Daytona Beach that settled for $2.1 million; Pugh v. Avis Rent-A-Car, the class action challenge to Avis’ discrimination against African-American customers that settled for $5.1 million; and the series of cases challenging the pervasive discrimination against African-American motorcyclists during the annual Black Bike Week in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Ross v. Choice Hotels International, Inc.
Relman, Dane & Colfax recently filed, along with co-counsel Equal Justice Foundation, a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio against Choice Hotels, the owner of Comfort Suites Hotels and several other hotel brands. The Complaint alleges that the plaintiffs, two African-American women, were denied access to a hotel room at a Comfort Suites Hotel in Columbus, Ohio, for which they had already paid, after the desk manager observed several African-American men enter the room. The manager allegedly told the plaintiffs the hotel had a "no party" policy prohibiting more than five people in a room, but when the police arrived they observed a party of white teenagers with more than five people in the room next door to the plaintiffs' room. The clerk eventually admitted that no such policy existed, but required the plaintiffs to leave the hotel anyway.
The complaint is available here.
Keck v. Graham Hotel Systems, Inc.
Relman, Dane & Colfax successfully represented Mr. and Mrs. Keck, a couple who tried unsuccessfully for three months to reserve the Kensington Court hotel in Ann Arbor, Michigan for their wedding reception. The Kecks were never permitted to place a deposit, sign a contract, or even schedule an appointment with the hotel’s wedding specialist. The District Court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed in a rare appellate decision addressing the elements of a prima facie case of race discrimination in a retail establishment. The appellate court held that a plaintiff need not rely exclusively on showing differential treatment of similarly situated customers to raise an inference of discrimination. Rather, in the retail establishment context, a plaintiff can survive summary judgment by showing that the defendant’s behavior “was so profoundly contrary to its financial interests, and so far outside of widely accepted business norms,” that the conduct supports a rational inference of discrimination. The case was settled after the appellate decision.
The Sixth Circuit’s opinion is available here.