Stewart v. Human Relations Commission, C.A. No. 09A-05-002 (JTV) (Del. Super. July 6, 2010), read opinion here.
This recent decision of the Delaware Superior Court is one that we will mention in passing because it may interest lawyers who represent businesses. This case involved a claim against a movie theater chain that the manager violated the Delaware Equal Accommodations Law at Section 4504(a) of Title 6 of the Delaware Code, based on an announcement that the manager of the theater made at the beginning of a movie instructing that the attendees needed to turn off their cell phones and remain quiet. The accusation was that the announcement was insulting and denied access to public accommodations on the basis of the race of the attendees who found the instructions to be insulting, humiliating and demeaning.
The Delaware Superior Court reversed the decision of the Delaware Human Relations Commission. The Court rejected the arguments of the Commission and rejected the position of the attendees that: “While they were not denied service outright, they were denied the privileges and advantages thereof through the determined manner of the delivery of a pre-show announcement chosen to be delivered in their theater and their theater alone, based solely on the composition of the audience.” See footnote 33. The Court explained in much more detail in its 17-page opinion why it rejected those arguments.
Curiously, one of the persons in attendance at the theater who also joined initially in the complaint (which the Court rejected), was the chair of the Human Relations Commission of the State of Delaware.
We highlighted a prior decision here, in which the Court reversed a decision of the Human Relations Commission, and confirmed that in certain circumstances, a business need not serve everyone.