Case Alleging Discrimination Against Straight Car Renters May Go Forward

So holds Evenchik v. Avis Rent a Car Systems, LLC (S.D. Cal. Sept. 17, 2012):

According to the Complaint, Plaintiff rented a car from AVIS in July 2011, in the County of San Diego, California. She was charged $311.36. According to the Complaint, at that time AVIS gave large price discounts to members of two groups: the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association and the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Plaintiff is not a member of either group. The Complaint further alleges that AVIS did not give her the gay and lesbian group member price discount. Plaintiff alleges that California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act … prohibits a business from discriminating between its customers on the basis of sexual orientation….

Plaintiff plausibly alleges that during the transaction AVIS charged her a higher price to rent a car because AVIS did not perceive her to be a lesbian or gay customer or because AVIS did not perceive her to be associated with favored lesbian or gay customer groups….

AVIS asserts throughout its briefs that the purpose of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act is (to use AVIS’s words): “to prevent unequal treatment for disadvantaged classes of people who have been the subject of invidious discrimination.” Neither the language of the statute nor the case law speak of protecting disadvantaged classes. Instead, the Act seeks to prevent any discrimination among people on the basis of listed characteristics. Thus, because the Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, for example, it prohibits business from charging men more than women for the same services. See Koire, 40 Cal.3d at 32….

Another thread of argument runs through AVIS’s briefs: … since Plaintiff could have become a member of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association or the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and thus qualified for its favored discounts …, there was no pricing discrimination…. [But this] assumes an evidentiary showing which has yet to be made…. [A]lthough AVIS repeats it often as fact, there is no evidence that membership in either International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association or the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce was open to Plaintiff when she rented her car….

The salient allegation of the Complaint is that AVIS charged Plaintiff more money for her car rental than it would have charged Plaintiff if Plaintiff had been a member of the favored gay and lesbian groups. This is sufficient to plausibly allege a violation of [the Unruh Civil Rights Act]….