California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

3020. Unruh Civil Rights Act (Civ. Code, §§ 51, 52) - Essential Factual Elements

[Name of plaintiff] claims that [name of defendant] denied [him/ her] full and equal [accommodations/advantages/facilities/ privileges/services] because of [his/her] [sex/race/color/religion/ ancestry/national origin/disability/medical condition/[insert other actionable characteristic]]. To establish this claim, [name of plaintiff] must prove all of the following:

1. That [name of defendant] [denied/aided or incited a denial of/discriminated or made a distinction that denied] full and equal [accommodations/advantages/facilities/privileges/ services] to [name of plaintiff];

2. [That a motivating reason for [name of defendant]'s conduct was [its perception of] [name of plaintiff]'s [sex/ race/color/religion/ancestry/national origin/disability/medical condition/[insert other actionable characteristic];]

[That the [sex/race/color/religion/ancestry/national origin/ disability/medical condition/[insert other actionable characteristic]] of a person whom [name of plaintiff] was associated with was a motivating reason for [name of defendant]'s conduct;]

3. That [name of plaintiff] was harmed; and

4. That [name of defendant]'s conduct was a substantial factor in causing [name of plaintiff]'s harm.

Directions for Use

Note that this instruction uses the standard of "a motivating reason." The causation standard is still an open issue under this statute.

The judge may decide the issue of whether the defendant is a business establishment as a matter of law. (Rotary Club of Duarte v. Bd. of Directors (1986) 178 Cal.App.3d 1035, 1050 [224 Cal.Rptr. 213].) Special interrogatories may be needed if there are factual issues. This element has been omitted from the instruction because it is unlikely to go to a jury.

"Legitimate business interests" may justify some degree of limitation on consumer access to public accommodations. (Hankins v. El Torito Restaurants, Inc. (1998) 63 Cal.App.4th 510, 520 [74 Cal.Rptr.2d 684].) This will commonly be an issue for the judge to decide. (Harris v. Capital Growth Investors XIV (1991) 52 Cal.3d 1142, 1165 [278 Cal.Rptr. 614, 805 P.2d 873].) If there are contested factual issues, additional instructions may be necessary.

Sources and Authority

Civil Code section 51 provides:

(a) This section shall be known, and may be cited, as the Unruh Civil Rights Act.

(b) All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal, and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, or medical condition are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.

(c) This section shall not be construed to confer any right or privilege on a person that is conditioned or limited by law or that is applicable alike to persons of every sex, color, race, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, or medical condition.

(d) Nothing in this section shall be construed to require any construction, alteration, repair, structural or otherwise, or modification of any sort whatsoever, beyond that construction, alteration, repair, or modification that is otherwise required by other provisions of law, to any new or existing establishment, facility, building, improvement, or any other structure, nor shall anything in this section be construed to augment, restrict, or alter in any way the authority of the State Architect to require construction, alteration, repair, or modifications that the State Architect otherwise possesses pursuant to other laws.

(e) For purposes of this section:

(1) "Disability" means any mental or physical disability as defined in Section 12926 of the Government Code.

(2) "Medical condition" has the same meaning as defined in subdivision (h) of Section 12926 of the Government Code.

(f) A violation of the right of any individual under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-336) shall also constitute a violation of this section.

Civil Code section 52 provides:

(a) Whoever denies, aids or incites a denial, or makes any discrimination or distinction contrary to Section 51, 51.5, or 51.6, is liable for each and every offense for the actual damages, and any amount that may be determined by a jury, or a court sitting without a jury, up to a maximum of three times the amount of actual damage but in no case less than four thousand dollars ($4,000), and any attorney's fees that may be determined by the court in addition thereto, suffered by any person denied the rights provided in Section 51, 51.5, or 51.6.

(b) Whoever denies the right provided by Section 51.7 or 51.9, or aids, incites, or conspires in that denial, is liable for each and every offense for the actual damages suffered by any person denied that right and, in addition, the following:

(1) An amount to be determined by a jury, or a court sitting without a jury, for exemplary damages.

(2) A civil penalty of twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) to be awarded to the person denied the right provided by Section 51.7 in any action brought by the person denied the right, or by the Attorney General, a district attorney, or a city attorney.

(3) Attorney's fees as may be determined by the court.

(c) Whenever there is reasonable cause to believe that any person or group of persons is engaged in conduct of resistance to the full enjoyment of any of the rights described in this section, and that conduct is of that nature and is intended to deny the full exercise of those rights, the Attorney General, any district attorney or city attorney, or any person aggrieved by the conduct may bring a civil action in the appropriate court by filing with it a complaint. The complaint shall contain the following:

(1) The signature of the officer, or, in his or her absence, the individual acting on behalf of the officer, or the signature of the person aggrieved.

(2) The facts pertaining to the conduct.

(3) A request for preventive relief, including an application for a permanent or temporary injunction, restraining order, or other order against the person or persons responsible for the conduct, as the complainant deems necessary to ensure the full enjoyment of the rights described in this section.

(d) Whenever an action has been commenced in any court seeking relief from the denial of equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States on account of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or disability, the Attorney General or any district attorney or city attorney for or in the name of the people of the State of California may intervene in the action upon timely application if the Attorney General or any district attorney or city attorney certifies that the case is of general public importance. In that action, the people of the State of California shall be entitled to the same relief as if it had instituted the action.

(e) Actions brought pursuant to this section are independent of any other actions, remedies, or procedures that may be available to an aggrieved party pursuant to any other law.

(f) Any person claiming to be aggrieved by an alleged unlawful practice in violation of Section 51 or 51.7 may also file a verified complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing pursuant to Section 12948 of the Government Code.

(g) This section does not require any construction, alteration, repair, structural or otherwise, or modification of any sort whatsoever, beyond that construction, alteration, repair, or modification that is otherwise required by other provisions of law, to any new or existing establishment, facility, building, improvement, or any other structure, nor does this section augment, restrict, or alter in any way the authority of the State Architect to require construction, alteration, repair, or modifications that the State Architect otherwise possesses pursuant to other laws.

(h) For the purposes of this section, "actual damages" means special and general damages. This subdivision is declaratory of existing law.

" 'The Legislature used the words "all" and "of every kind whatsoever" in referring to business establishments covered by the Unruh Act, and the inclusion of these words without any exception and without specification of particular kinds of enterprises, leaves no doubt that the term "business establishments" was used in the broadest sense reasonably possible. The word "business" embraces everything about which one can be employed, and it is often synonymous with "calling, occupation, or trade, engaged in for the purpose of making a livelihood or gain." The word "establishment," as broadly defined, includes not only a fixed location, such as the "place where one is permanently fixed for residence or business," but also a permanent "commercial force or organization" or "a permanent settled position, (as in life or business).' " (O'Connor v. Village Green Owners Assn. (1983) 33 Cal.3d 790, 795 [191 Cal.Rptr. 320, 662 P.2d 427], internal citations omitted.)

Whether a defendant is a "business establishment" is decided as an issue of law. (Rotary Club of Duarte, supra, 178 Cal.App.3d at p. 1050.)

"In addition to the particular forms of discrimination specifically outlawed by the Act (sex, race, color, etc.), courts have held the Act 'prohibit[s] discrimination based on several classifications which are not specifically enumerated in the statute.' These judicially recognized classifications include unconventional dress or physical appearance, families with children, homosexuality, and persons under 18." (Hessians Motorcycle Club v. J.C. Flanagans (2001) 86 Cal.App.4th 833, 836 [103 Cal.Rptr.2d 552], internal citations omitted.)

" 'Although the Unruh Act proscribes "any form of arbitrary discrimination", certain types of discrimination have been denominated "reasonable" and, therefore, not arbitrary.' Thus, for example, 'legitimate business interests may justify limitations on consumer access to public accommodations.' " (Hankins v. El Torito Restaurants, Inc. (1998) 63 Cal.App.4th 510, 520 [74 Cal.Rptr.2d 684], internal citations omitted.)

"Unruh Act issues have often been decided as questions of law on emurrer or summary judgment when the policy or practice of a usiness establishment is valid on its face because it bears a reasonable relation to commercial objectives appropriate to an enterprise serving the public." (Harris, supra, 52 Cal.3d at p. 1165, internal citations omitted.)

"It is thus manifested by section 51 that all persons are entitled to the full and equal privilege of associating with others in any business establishment. And section 52, liberally interpreted, makes clear that discrimination by such a business establishment against one's right of association on account of the associates' color, is violative of the Act. It follows . . . that discrimination by a business establishment against persons on account of their association with others of the black race is actionable under the Act." (Winchell v. English (1976) 62 Cal.App.3d 125, 129 [133 Cal.Rptr. 20].)

"Section 51 by its express language applies only within California. It cannot (with its companion penalty provisions in § 52) be extended into the Hawaiian jurisdiction. A state cannot regulate or proscribe activities conducted in another state or supervise the internal affairs of another state in any way, even though the welfare or health of its citizens may be affected when they travel to that state." (Archibald v. Cinerama Hawaiian Hotels, Inc. (1977) 73 Cal.App.3d 152, 159 [140 Cal.Rptr. 599], internal citations omitted, disapproved on other grounds in Koire v. Metro Car Wash (1985) 40 Cal.3d 24 [219 Cal.Rptr. 133, 707 P.2d 195].)

Secondary Sources

11 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 116, Civil Rights: Discrimination in Business Establishments, §§ 116.10-116.13 (Matthew Bender)

3 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 35, Civil Rights (Matthew Bender)

(New September 2003)