Discrimination in Public Places of Accommodation or Amusement
State law generally prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation and amusement because of:
- National Origin
- Sexual Orientation
- Disability or the presence of a service animal
- Age (protected for lodging and minors are excluded)
The statute of limitations for filing a complaint is 300 days from the date the action was taken or the individual was made aware the action was taken.
Places of public accommodation or amusement can include fitness centers, retail stores, taverns, restaurants, salons, nursing homes, clinics, hospitals, cemeteries, public transportation, hotels, campgrounds, bed and breakfast establishments, movie theatres, and any other place where accommodations, amusement, goods or services are available.
The law prohibits the following types of discrimination based on sex, race, color, creed, disability, sexual orientation, national origin and ancestry:
- Denying a person full and equal enjoyment of a place of public accommodation or amusement
- Charging a person more than the regular rate
- Giving preferential treatment to one class of people over another in services or facilities
- Advertising that a class of people is unwelcome or excluded from a place of public accommodation or amusement or its facilities
- Charging a higher price, refusing to rent, or giving preferential treatment to one class of people for rental of private facilities
- Refusing or charging a higher price for car insurance (sex is excluded from protection here)
Age discrimination is only prohibited under this law in the context of lodging. A lodging establishment may not deny an adult full and equal enjoyment or charge a higher rate because of age. It is also prohibited to advertise that an adult will be denied lodging or access to lodging facilities because of age.
Service animals are permitted access to places of public accommodation or amusement when accompanied by a trainer or a person with a disability. An establishment is obligated to modify its policies and practices to permit full and equal enjoyment of the location by a service animal trainer or an individual with a disability accompanied by a service animal. An individual with a disability is not required to produce documentation related to the service animal.
The law does not apply if:
- A service animal accompanying a trainer does not have a harness or leash and a special cape, or the trainer cannot produce documentation showing the animal is being trained as a service animal.
- The presence of the service animal would result in a fundamental change to the place of public accommodation or amusement or jeopardize its safe operation.
Exceptions of the law
- Colleges and universities may have separate dormitories for different sexes
- Public toilets, showers, saunas and dressing rooms may be segregated based on sex
- Domestic abuse organizations may offer separate shelter facilities, treatment or services based on sex
- Fitness centers may provide services or facilities intended for only one sex
- Events for special guests and members of a private, nonprofit organization or institution are excluded from the law
Frequently Asked Questions:
What if a place is not handicap accessible?
The state law prohibiting discrimination in public places of accommodation or amusement does not set specific accessibility requirements, though it provides for full and equal enjoyment for an individual with a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does set specific expectations for building accessibility. Complaints under ADA may be made with the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division or pursued through a lawsuit.
How can I be sure if a specific place or service is covered by the Law?
This often depends on the nature of the location, agency or enterprise and the goods or services it provides. If you have doubts about whether the law applies, you may contact the Equal Rights Division for further clarification.
What if I was discriminated against because of my age?
Unless the discrimination occurred in the context of lodging, there is no protection under the state law against discrimination in public places of accommodation or amusement. There is protection against age discrimination in Wisconsin's housing and employment discrimination laws.