MALINDA A. YOUNG, Complainant
EUGENE TRIMBLE, Respondent
An administrative law judge (ALJ) for the Equal Rights Division of the Department of Industry, Labor and Human Relations issued a decision in the above-captioned matter on June 10, 1993. The ALJ concluded that the complainant is in the protected classes of race and sex within the meaning of the Wisconsin Public Accommodations Law and that the respondent operated a place of public accommodation within the meaning of the Wisconsin Public Accommodations Law, but that the complainant failed to prove that the respondent had discriminated against her on the basis of race or sex in violation of said law.
The complainant has filed a timely appeal of the finding of no discrimination, objecting to the manner in which the hearing was allegedly handled by the ALJ and essentially accusing him of being biased.
Based upon a review of the record in its entirety, the Labor and Industry Review Commission hereby issues the following:
1. The complainant, Malinda A. Young, is a black female.
2. The respondent, Eugene Trimble, engages in the business of renting commercial space in the State of Wisconsin.
3. The respondent has three properties which are rented primarily for commercial use. At the time of the hearing the respondent had approximately thirty-nine tenants, approximately thirty of whom are black.
4. The respondent fills vacancies at his properties primarily in the following manner: using word-of-mouth, advertising in the Milwaukee Sentinel newspaper and/or a sign(s) on his premises.
5. The complainant rented office space from the respondent to operate a graphics or printing business. A lease agreement was entered into on or about January 16, 1992, and was to run from March 1, 1992, through February 28, 1994, at the rent of eight hundred dollars per month. On or about January 16, 1992, the complainant also received a loan of twelve thousand dollars from the respondent.
6. The complainant alleges that after she began renting from the respondent, she was racially and sexually harassed by the respondent.
7. On April 20, 1992, the complainant gave to the respondent permission to take possession of her shop and to find buyers for her printing and office equipment. On June 18, 1992, the complainant and respondent executed a chattel mortgage for the sum of twelve thousand dollars.
Based upon the above FINDINGS OF FACT, the commission makes the following:
1. The respondent's business activity of leasing real property to entrepreneurs for the establishment of their own place of business does not constitute the operation of a public place of accommodation within the meaning of the Wisconsin Public Accommodations Law.
2. The respondent did not violate the Wisconsin Public Accommodations Law with respect to its dealings with the complainant.
Based upon the above FINDINGS OF FACT and CONCLUSIONS OF LAW, the commission makes the following:
That the complaint in this matter is dismissed.
Dated and mailed July 11, 1994
/s/ Pamela I. Anderson, Chairman
/s/ Richard T. Kreul, Commissioner
/s/ James R. Meier, Commissioner
Section 111.22(9), Stats., makes it illegal to, among other things, deny to another the full and equal enjoyment of any "public place of accommodation or amusement" because of race and sex. The statute provides that "`Public place of accommodation or amusement"' shall be interpreted broadly to include, but not be limited to, places of business or recreation, lodging establishments; restaurants; taverns; barber or cosmetologist, aesthetician, electrologist or manicuring establishments; nursing homes; clinics; hospitals; cemeteries; and any place where accommodations, amusement, goods or services are available either free or for a consideration." s.101.22(lm)(p)l.
In order to be a place of public accommodation under the public accommodation law, however, the business must be comparable to or consistent with the businesses enumerated in the statute. Hatheway v. Gannett Satellite Network, 157 Wis. 2d 395, 459 N.W.2d 873 (Ct. App. 1990). The ALJ concluded that the respondent is not totally dissimilar in nature from the businesses listed in the Public Accommodations Law; that "The Respondent essentially engaged in the business of renting commercial space to the general public, and under a broad construction of the public accommodations law the Respondent's premises were a place of business where (business) accommodations were made available for a consideration." The commission disagrees. The nature of the businesses listed in the Public Accommodations Law involve businesses that offer health and beauty aids, food, drink, recreation and lodging to patrons. They are accommodations generally offered by businesses classified as service industry businesses. The respondent's business is that of leasing real property to entrepreneurs for the establishment of their own place of business. The respondent does not supply necessities and/or comforts of the kind enumerated in the statute. Providing commercial real estate for enterprising individuals to pursue their own business ventures simply does not constitute public "accommodations" in the sense that this term is normally understood. Accordingly, the commission finds the respondent's business to be totally dissimilar in nature from the businesses listed in the public accommodation law and thus not subject to the public accommodation law.
In view of the commission's conclusion that the respondent's business was not a place of public accommodation within the meaning of the Wisconsin Public Accommodation Law, it is unnecessary to determine whether the respondent was biased against the complainant because of her race or sex, or whether or not the ALJ had mishandled the hearing and/or had been biased against the complainant as alleged on appeal.
NOTE: The commission's determination that the respondent's business was not a place of public accommodation comes as a matter of law as the commission has not reached this conclusion based on a different assessment of the witnesses' credibility from that of the ALJ
cc: Gregory Willie
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