Thursday, September 10, 2015

Libs Shocked to Discover Law Applies to Them

OMG! Broad, Flexible, Plaintiff-Friendly Law Used In Unanticipated Manner!
California's Unruh Civil Rights Act, a 1959 law named after a powerful California politician, was a precursor to the federal 1964 Civil Rights Act. It prohibits businesses from discriminating against folks based on specified attributes, currently including sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, or sexual orientation. It is, by design, a very broad and flexible tool, and has repeatedly been interpreted to protect groups and classes beyond those listed explicitly. Defendants found liable can be ordered to pay up to three times the actual damages the plaintiff suffers (and no less than $4,000), and can be ordered to pay the plaintiff's attorney fees. A losing plaintiff can't be ordered to pay a winning defendant's attorney fees, with certain narrow disability-law exceptions.

Recently the Unruh Act provoked outrage. Why? Because this broad, flexible, and unilateral law was invoked creatively by the wrong people. Here's how The Mary Sue put it:
Some Jerks Used a 56-Year-Old Anti-Discrimination Law to Shut Down “Women in Tech” Group
Yahoo! "News" was even more indignant:
These men's rights activists are using a 1950s law to shut down women in tech
What happened? Let Yahoo! describe it:
Two men named Allan Candelore and Rich Allison, who had each prepaid a $20 registration fee on the Chic CEO website, tried to enter the restaurant. According to a legal complaint that they later filed with National Coalition for Men president Harry Crouch, Burns turned them away at the door, saying the event “was only open to women.” They took a photo, left the premises, then promptly initiated legal action, turning to a 1959 California law originally written to prevent discrimination against minorities and women.
According to The Mary Sue, this was enough to ruin Chic CEO, an outfit organized to support women in tech:
How much did that lawsuit end up costing them? $510,000. [edited to add: my clumsy quoting here made it seem that the Mary Sue was talking about this lawsuit with that number; they were talking about another one. Follow the link to see the context.]
It’s not clear how much the out-of-court settlement cost Chic CEO, but it was enough to virtually drive them out of business.
The Mary Sue is outraged that a civil rights law is being "twisted" by men, and aghast that the legal system allows meritless claims to extort compliance . . .
Sauce for the gander . . .

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