Uh-oh! It’s Unruh! Why Women Need to Understand this Law

Why Your Women’s Business Needs to Understand Unruh

The Unruh Civil Rights Act specifically outlaws discrimination in California by commercial establishments against anyone based on sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, or sexual orientation.

Why do you need to know this as a Women Business Owner in California?

There is a growing trend in California of men’s rights activists (MRA’s) who are using the Unruh Act against women led businesses, women only and pro-women events.

MRA’s have brought claims for discrimination against several women led businesses and events in California, including Eagle Rock Brewery for a Women Beer Forum meetup, and Donald Trump Golf Course for charging women a lower ticket price than men at an event for Breast Cancer Awareness.

To avoid going out of business due to costly legal battles, some businesses choose to settle claims, paying up to $50,000.

A distortion of the law

Women can experience all sorts of exclusions in the workplace, on boards, in education, in obtaining financing for their businesses and unfortunately many more.   Unruh was passed to address these inequalities and prejudices, as are ‘women only’ events.

It is disappointing as well as surprising that this civil rights legislation is being used against the very people it was designed to protect, and perhaps more so, that those filing claims on unfair grounds are getting away with it.

It can be used against you

The Unruh Act is enforceable against you as a woman business owner if you don’t understand how it works and take precautionary steps when you hold a women’s only event and exclude certain groups of people from attending.

It also applies when you offer a financial discount such as reduced entry fees, to any person based on classifications of gender, race, sexual orientation or any other ‘stereotype’, including men.

Can we protect ourselves?  Heck yeah!

We’ve outlined some tips below to help you become aware of the Unruh Act and some ways to protect your business from having Unruh used against you.

The following in no way constitutes legal advice, and you should take further steps to educate yourself on the workings of the Act, and how to plan and promote your business events with full protection of the law in mind.  If you want to speak with an Equal Legal plan attorney about your specific circumstances or event, this is a great way to protect your business even more.

Step 1. Know the Act!

The Unruh Civil Rights Act says:

All persons within the jurisdiction of this state (California) are free and equal, and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sexual orientation, citizenship, primary language, or immigration status are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.”

Step 2. Don’t exclude anyone in writing, on the phone or in person

  • Make sure you are not excluding any group of people in your promotional publications and events.
  • If you advertise a women’s event don’t say things like: “Sorry guys, only women welcome!” however cute and playful you are being.
  • If a man attempts to buy a ticket at a women’s event, let him.
  • Don’t turn away a man at the door on the basis that it’s a ‘women’s only event’ and that he is a man (or any other classification).
  • If anyone phones your business to inquire about an event or discount you’re offering, don’t say it’s “for women only”, or exclude any other group of people.
  • Remember the law states: “all are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.”


Step 3. Be on the lookout!

  • Women only events are the target and even women rights groups at universities.        
  • There are groups of men actively seeking women led businesses on Facebook and social media who are hosting women only events.  They could very well target your business because a $50K settlement is a good incentive!
  • Remember, they don’t care how just, kind or fair you are being by holding women only events.  They want your dollars and will exploit your event to get at them. Don’t let them.

If you find your business or event targeted, remember you are not alone.  Reach out to an Equal Legal plan attorney for advice or legal support.

If we do not stand up to abuses of civil rights law that were designed to create equality, this only encourages more abuses of the law.

If you’re not already a member of Equal Legal sign up here, and of course, as always, everybody welcome!


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