Can You be Denied Service for Wearing an Offensive Shirt?

Announcer: PYX. Quinn and Cantara.

Quinn: 1-800-LAW-1010. Paul Harding from Martin, Harding, & Mazzotti on the horn.

Cantara: Morning, Paul.

Paul: Hey, good morning, good morning.

Cantara: So the story…

Quinn: Remember, he’s a business owner, Paul Harding. I know you own some sandwich shops around the area, Paul. This is great. I wonder what you would wanna do in this situation. Go ahead, Cantara, sorry.

Cantara: No, it’s just, it’s the swastika story. The kid walking into the mall, or guy, wearing a swastika shirt, and the guy at the comic book store inside Crossgates telling him to leave, and there’s been all kinds of backlash online, and the debate rages on. Did he have the right? And then I saw that the guy wearing the shirt has protected right, and the business owner also has protected right. So how does that work, Paul?

Paul: So, super-complicated, but it kind of boils down to this. We all know that he can wear that shirt, right? First Amendment says you can wear a shirt even if others are offended by it. Sort of one of the baseline rights that we have hear in our country, but we also know you can’t deny based on race, color, religion, national origin, and disability, right? Those are kind of the big five that you can’t say, “I’m not gonna serve you because of your,” fill in the blank. Here he refused, certainly. It was kind of an arbitrary refusal. He didn’t like what the guy had on his shirt, and the courts really could go either way.

Cantara: So what about this? If I just break it down, it’s pretty obvious, we see no shirt, no shoes, no service. So if you have a shirt on, I mean, I guess you can’t say it has to be a specific shirt, but it does have to be a shirt, right? You can legally deny someone for not having a shirt on, but if their religious beliefs said I never wear a shirt, then can you deny them? I mean, so slippery.

Quinn: Exactly. Like, say there’s some sort of a white nationalist, KKK member that doesn’t like to wear the top part of his KKK outfit, comes in no shirt, but seems nice, but you don’t know he’s KKK. I don’t know, I’m making stuff up over here, but we can go in, and walk around in any kind of outfit we want, but they can refuse service if it affects someone’s civil rights? Is that what you’re saying?

Paul: Well, you see, right. You can’t affect their civil rights, but take these signs you see, often at a diner or restaurant, where it says, you know, “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone,” right? For any reason. Like, they’ll have that sign up there. It really kinda…that could be true, it just can’t be arbitrary, right? So usually that’s to protect if you got a bunch of people who are rowdy, or they have hygiene issues, or in your example, you know, they want the shirt because you wander around without a shirt and hair could be flying, getting into people’s food, and there’s just sort of that component that it’s okay to enforce that.

As far as what my religion is, you know, I like to have my shirt off, probably not gonna fly, right? Feels like sort of, kind of just making that up along the way. But here, the question is, is it arbitrary, you know? So is he letting someone in and serving someone that has, in someone’s opinion, an equally offensive shirt? So, here, I think the court would look at this and say, he had the right to refuse service to this Neo-Nazi, maybe, person.

Quinn: What if we find out…because there was word that the gentleman may have had some mental issues, or something like that. What if we found out that somebody coerced him into doing it unbeknownst to him because of his ability?

Cantara: Still wearing the shirt in the place of business.

Quinn: But we see that. You know, we’re starting to see some hate crime stuff coming up, the guy yelling at the lady with the Puerto Rican t-shirt got a hate crime. Would the person that put this guy into the mall with the Nazi shirt, would he be liable for something if they found that out?

Paul: You know, again, if you keep changing the facts, the answer can eventually change, you know. But you got a situation where, to boil this down, this guy owns the shop, says, “I’m not gonna service you based on,” and it wasn’t one of the big five, right? It wasn’t one of the civil rights components to it. But, sure, if it went up to a court, is it consistent? Did he serve someone, you know, last week who had a Nazi shirt on? And if he did, then he would be in violation of the rules. It can’t be arbitrary, but you can have rules as a business owner.

Quinn: So this isn’t one of the big five, so this doesn’t fall under the gay cake umbrella, does it?

Paul: It does not.

Cantara: That helps us out.

Quinn: Okay, that’s what I was confused about yesterday. What my dad would have said, “Well if we all wear Nazi shirts, nobody’s gonna care,” you know? It’s an unfortunate circumstance.

Paul: It is.

Cantara: And, you know…

Quinn: It’s brutal.

Cantara: I side with the business guy because, for the one reason is, if somebody’s walking by that mall, that store, and they see me doing business with that guy, they’re gonna associate me with that shirt, and they may not…

Quinn: He’s a Nazi, Cantara.

Cantara: …Wanna shop me again, you know?

Quinn: Right, I feel for the guy.

Cantara: All right, interesting, Paul. We appreciate the time this morning.

Quinn: Thanks, buddy.

Paul: All right, good stuff. Thanks, guys.

Quinn: 1-800-LAW-1010, Paul Harding, everyone.

Announcer: Quinn and Cantara in the morning, classic rock all day, on PYX 106.