Lambda Legal Reaches Settlement with California Barbershop that Discriminated Against Transgender Client

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“The Barbershop admitted that it broke the law, and we are relieved that it will no longer use religion as a basis to discriminate against customers or to impose gender stereotypes about how a person must look.”
February 1, 2017

(Los Angeles, CA, February 1, 2017) – Lambda Legal today announced it has reached a settlement with a southern California barbershop that turned away Kendall Oliver, who is transgender, based on claimed religious objections to serving customers not perceived as male. As part of the settlement, The Barbershop agreed to entry of a court order permanently barring it from denying services to customers based on sex.

“All Kendall wanted was a short haircut like other paying customers,” Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Peter Renn said. “Kendall’s sex shouldn’t have mattered.  No one should experience the gut-punch of being told they won’t be served by a business open to the public. California’s civil rights laws protect us all from discrimination by businesses no matter what our sex, race, or religion. The Barbershop admitted that it broke the law, and we are relieved that it will no longer use religion as a basis to discriminate against customers or to impose gender stereotypes about how a person must look.  The fact that discrimination in the public sphere may be religiously motivated doesn’t make it any less harmful to the person on its receiving end.”

Under the terms of the settlement announced today, The Barbershop admitted to violating California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination by business establishments on the basis of sex, including actual or perceived gender, gender identity, and gender expression.  The defendants agreed to entry of a court-ordered permanent injunction barring them from engaging in further discrimination based on sex.

“I’m glad this is over and that the business has promised not to do to others what it did to me,” Kendall said. “All I wanted was a haircut, and instead I was denied service just for being who I am. This painful incident shouldn’t have happened, and it was important for me to take a stand and make sure what happened to me wouldn’t happen to others.”

BACKGROUND:

A year ago, Kendall, who uses the gender-neutral pronouns “they”, “them” and “their”, moved back to California and was looking for a new barber. Kendall made an appointment for a haircut at The Barbershop in Rancho Cucamonga, but when they showed up for the appointment, Kendall was perceived as female and informed that The Barbershop would not cut women’s hair.  Kendall pointed out that all they wanted was a “men’s haircut” but was nonetheless denied service.  Although Kendall’s birth-assigned sex is female, that does not match Kendall’s gender identity.

After leaving The Barbershop, Kendall called the business owner and explained that they are transgender and identify more as male than female.  However, the business owner again refused service, stating that he would not cut the hair of “any kind of woman.”  He later told reporters that “God teaches a very clear distinction between the genders,” that people should not “go against what God has created,” and that “it’s a shame for a man to have long hair, but if a woman has long hair, it’s her glory.”

Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit in the San Bernardino County Superior Court alleging The Barbershop violated California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act.  The Act guarantees all people full and equal access to all business establishments in California without regard to their sex (which includes their gender, gender identity, and gender expression), race, religion, and other characteristics.

The case is Oliver v. The Barbershop. The court order entering a permanent injunction against defendants is available here: http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/oliver_ca_20170201_order

Handling the case for Lambda Legal are Peter Renn and Susan Sommer, joined by pro-bono co-counsel Katherine Forster, Jennifer Bryant, and Ankur Mandhania of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP.

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Contact Info

Tom Warnke, Cell: 213-841-4503: Email: [email protected]

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