Discrimination in Public Places of Accommodation or Amusement

Overview

State law generally prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation and amusement because of:

  • Sex
  • Ancestry
  • National Origin
  • Race
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Disability or the presence of a service animal
  • Color
  • Creed
  • 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.

    Coverage

    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.

    Prohibited discrimination

    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.

    If the service animal is not wearing a harness or a leash and special cape, it is not unlawful to ask if the animal is a service animal required because of a disability. In the case of a service animal in training, it is not unlawful to require the trainer to produce a certification or other credential showing that the animal is in training. The law does not apply if 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:

    Expand All | Collapse All

    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.

    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.

    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.

    For more information