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  1. #1
    AsxYork is offline Junior Member
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    Country Club Discrimination

    What is the name of your state? NY

    I am a non-white who applied for membership at a certain country club. I was turned down. Coincidentally (not!) there is not one minority or female member of the club. Is this legal? Can I sue if I can corroborate my beliefs with other similar cases where people were not allowed to join?

    Thank you.
  2. #2
    quincy is offline Senior Member
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    Well, someone can always sue someone, but federal and state discrimination laws apply to workplace discrimination only. A private social organization that does not perform any significant public function, can generally not be forced to accept members.

    This is based on the "right of free association". In other words, some organizations can limit membership to "invitation only" members. Purely social clubs are allowed to discriminate.

    If there is any indication that this private club is operating in a business sense, however, or is operating in a place of public accommodation, then you would have legitimate cause for filing suit against them.
  3. #3
    You Are Guilty is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by AsxYork View Post
    What is the name of your state? NY

    I am a non-white who applied for membership at a certain country club. I was turned down. Coincidentally (not!) there is not one minority or female member of the club. Is this legal? Can I sue if I can corroborate my beliefs with other similar cases where people were not allowed to join?

    Thank you.
    Well, correlation is not causation. That said, go here: [url]http://www.dhr.state.ny.us/how_to_file_a_complaint.html[/url]

    A "place of public accommodation" is what country clubs potentially fall into, however, the definition is quite specific, so see if it applies:
    Quote Originally Posted by NY Exec Law s292
    9. The term "place of public accommodation, resort or amusement" shall include, except as hereinafter specified, all places included in the meaning of such terms as: inns, taverns, road houses, hotels, motels, whether conducted for the entertainment of transient guests or for the accommodation of those seeking health, recreation or rest, or restaurants, or eating houses, or any place where food is sold for consumption on the premises; buffets, saloons, barrooms, or any store, park or enclosure where spirituous or malt liquors are sold; ice cream parlors, confectionaries, soda fountains, and all stores where ice cream, ice and fruit preparations or their derivatives, or where beverages of any kind are retailed for consumption on the premises; wholesale and retail stores and establishments dealing with goods or services of any kind, dispensaries, clinics, hospitals, bath-houses, swimming pools, laundries and all other cleaning establishments, barber shops, beauty parlors, theatres, motion picture houses, airdromes, roof gardens, music halls, race courses, skating rinks, amusement and recreation parks, trailer camps, resort camps, fairs, bowling alleys, golf courses, gymnasiums, shooting galleries, billiard and pool parlors; garages, all public conveyances operated on land or water or in the air, as well as the stations and terminals thereof; travel or tour advisory services, agencies or bureaus; public halls and public elevators of buildings and structures occupied by two or more tenants, or by the owner and one or more tenants. Such term shall not include public libraries, kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, high schools, academies, colleges and universities, extension courses, and all educational institutions under the supervision of the regents of the state of New York; any such public library, kindergarten, primary and secondary school, academy, college, university, professional school, extension course or other education facility, supported in whole or in part by public funds or by contributions solicited from the general public; or any institution, club or place of accommodation which proves that it is in its nature distinctly private. In no event shall an institution, club or place of accommodation be considered in its nature distinctly private if it has more than one hundred members, provides regular meal service and regularly receives payment for dues, fees, use of space, facilities, services, meals or beverages directly or indirectly from or on behalf of a nonmember for the furtherance of trade or business. An institution, club, or place of accommodation which is not deemed distinctly private pursuant to this subdivision may nevertheless apply such selective criteria as it chooses in the use of its facilities, in evaluating applicants for membership and in the conduct of its activities, so long as such selective criteria do not constitute discriminatory practices under this article or any other provision of law. For the purposes of this section, a corporation incorporated under the benevolent orders law or described in the benevolent orders law but formed under any other law of this state or a religious corporation incorporated under the education law or the religious corporations law shall be deemed to be in its nature distinctly private. No institution, club, organization or place of accommodation which sponsors or conducts any amateur athletic contest or sparring exhibition and advertises or bills such contest or exhibition as a New York state championship contest or uses the words "New York state" in its announcements shall be deemed a private exhibition within the meaning of this section.
    Quote Originally Posted by Tranquility
    Once you get to crazy land, it is only a guess on how to get out.
  4. #4
    quincy is offline Senior Member
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    I wanted to add a few additional items.

    These are some of the tests a court will look at in determining whether a club or association is sufficiently personal and private enough to allow discrimination. Courts will look at the following conditions to see it a club qualifies: it has a purely social purpose (no business purpose), it is based on social interest and congeniality, it maintains a selective and exclusive membership, it limits access to its facility, it applies restrictive guest policies, it is under the control of its members, it is limited in size and scope, or it operates as a non-profit.

    The right of free association, protected by the Constitution and founded on the First Amendment, is not an unlimited right, and many states now have laws that limit "private clubs" to the extent that private social clubs are very hard to maintain legally. The private club protection can be lost in some states if there are state liquor licenses granted, for instance, or if there is preferential tax treatments given for the property owned, or if the membership is large. Michigan, as an example, passed law reforms in 1992 that essentially classified all private clubs as public accommodations, and golf courses and club facilities are now open to the public.

    I would review your situation with a New York Civil Rights attorney, to see if this country club is a legitimate social organization protected by the right of free association.
  5. #5
    BoredAtty is offline Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by quincy View Post
    Michigan, as an example, passed law reforms in 1992 that essentially classified all private clubs as public accommodations, and golf courses and club facilities are now open to the public.
    You sure about that? Last I checked, I still wasn't allowed to play at Oakland Hills.
  6. #6
    You Are Guilty is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by quincy View Post
    I wanted to add a few additional items.

    These are some of the tests a court will look at in determining whether a club or association is sufficiently personal and private enough to allow discrimination. Courts will look at the following conditions to see it a club qualifies: it has a purely social purpose (no business purpose), it is based on social interest and congeniality, it maintains a selective and exclusive membership, it limits access to its facility, it applies restrictive guest policies, it is under the control of its members, it is limited in size and scope, or it operates as a non-profit.
    Because the state statute is stricter than provided by Federal law, NY uses a "distinctly private" analysis as set forth in U.S. Power Squadrons v. State Human Rights Appeal Bd., 452 N.E.2d 1199 (1983). In a nutshell, there are ten things to look at to determine whether a club is truly "private" for discrimination purposes.

    (But don't forget that even if the club is determined not to be "private", the fact that there's only one minority member is still not proof of discrimination.)
    Quote Originally Posted by Tranquility
    Once you get to crazy land, it is only a guess on how to get out.
  7. #7
    quincy is offline Senior Member
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    BoredAtty -

    I cannot play at Oakland Hills, either.

    It is still considered a private club or "exclusive" club, with just under 1000 members and a five year or so waiting list, and you must be asked to join. However, Oakland Hills avoids violating Michigan's 1992 discrimination law by opening their membership up to "qualified golfers" (membership is not now "all-white-male") and opening their facilities up to guests.

    Oakland Hills WAS sued in 1992 over discriminatory practices, and they attempted to prove they were strictly a social club and that the '92 law was not applicable to them (using a bizarre argument about their restaurant facilities being part of their locker room, or something??), however the suit was settled out of court - when there was a threat by the state that Oakland would lose their liquor license.

    I probably could have become a member in 1916 - had I been alive then and had there been no "qualified golfer" restrictions (and had I been a bigot ), because the membership fees were only $250. Today the fee to join is over $100,000 - and then there are the monthly dues, and food, drink and caddie expenses.

    The 2008 PGA Championship will be held there in August, by the way. It is a beautiful course - even when you have to view it from a distance.
    Last edited by quincy; 12-11-2007 at 04:35 PM.
  8. #8
    BoredAtty is offline Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by quincy View Post
    BoredAtty -

    I cannot play at Oakland Hills, either.

    It is still considered a private club or "exclusive" club, with just under 1000 members and a five year or so waiting list, and you must be asked to join. However, Oakland Hills avoids violating Michigan's 1992 discrimination law by opening their membership up to "qualified golfers" (membership is not now "all-white-male") and opening their facilities up to guests.

    Oakland Hills WAS sued in 1992 over discriminatory practices, and they attempted to prove they were strictly a social club and that the '92 law was not applicable to them (using a bizarre argument about their restaurant facilities being part of their locker room, or something??), however the suit was settled out of court - when there was a threat by the state that Oakland would lose their liquor license.

    I probably could have become a member in 1916 - had I been alive then and had there been no "qualified golfer" restrictions (and had I been a bigot ), because the membership fees were only $250. Today the fee to join is over $100,000 - and then there are the monthly dues, and food, drink and caddie expenses.

    The 2008 PGA Championship will be held there in August, by the way. It is a beautiful course - even when you have to view it from a distance.
    I just noticed you are from Michigan. I grew up just a few miles from Oakland Hills. Anyway, my point is that it's not quite accurate to say that "golf courses and club facilities are now open to the public."
  9. #9
    quincy is offline Senior Member
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    You're Michigan born and bred? Cool!

    It's a great state - just a little under the weather right now economically and, as I look out the window, literally as well.



    (And, yes, I stand corrected - I did forget a "qualifier" ).
  10. #10
    HomeGuru is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by BoredAtty View Post
    You sure about that? Last I checked, I still wasn't allowed to play at Oakland Hills.
    **A: you can play as my guest.
  11. #11
    BoredAtty is offline Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by HomeGuru View Post
    **A: you can play as my guest.
    Hey man, I'll take you up on that. I go back to Detroit a couple of times a year.
  12. #12
    quincy is offline Senior Member
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    Ahem. Home Guru?

    Umm, did I not say that I was not allowed to play there either?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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