California Civil Rights & Discrimination Lawyers
Sex, Race, Age, Religious Discrimination
Specific discussion of discrimination
is almost precluded due to the multitude of circumstances and factual
scenarios giving rise to this indignation. For those who have experienced
the insidious effects of discrimination, almost no explanation of its
devastating impact need be explained.
Where the government or state intrudes
on protected liberties, a lawsuit is the avenue to protect, and to provide
Even where state or governmental action
is not at issue, individuals may nonetheless be protected from discrimination
where the wrongful conduct occurs at "business establishments"
and other "organizations"
The following factual case description
was taken directly from a case tried by Mr. Scarlett. The California Supreme
Court ultimately ruled on this case, barring sexual discrimination from
occurring in business establishments in California. (Note that the Club
has long since changed its policies. This discussion relates to Bylaws
and policies in effect at the times mentioned.)
Warfield v. Peninsula
Golf & Country Club
Mrs. W was an avid accomplished golfer
whose father had been a golf professional. Mrs. W participated in golf
tournaments herself through high school, was a semi-finalist in a state
championship held in Oregon, and competed in the state pro junior championship
at the age of seventeen.
In 1963, Mrs. W was married. Her golf
enthusiasm only increased after marriage. Both Mrs. W and her husband
continued to golf, joining various clubs until the late 1960's.
Ultimately, Mrs. W and her husband elected
to submit their application of membership for a Regular Family Membership
at the Peninsula Golf & Country Club.
At no time during the application process
did anyone inform Mrs. W that only men were allowed to be "proprietary
members" of the Club. Instead, the family membership was accepted
in a short period of time.
From 1970 through February, 1981, Mrs.
W and her two children increasingly utilized their membership at the Club.
In fact, on two occasions, Mrs. W won the Club's Women's Golf Championship.
She regularly represented the Club on the women's golf team.
Unfortunately, because of marital problems,
both Mrs. and Mr. W sought a dissolution of marriage, which was finalized
in 1981. An Order of the Court awarded Mrs. W the Club membership.
Allegedly based on provisions of the
Bylaws prohibiting women from being proprietary members of the Club, on
April 22, 1981, the Board of Directors of the Club voted to terminate
Mrs. W's family membership. Mrs. W was actually forced to leave the Club
in November, 1981.
Membership and Bylaws
Although the Club maintained various
different memberships, Regular Family Memberships were the only memberships
of a "proprietary" nature. The Regular Family Membership was
at the time, limited to 350 members.
As a proprietary member, an individual
member owned one three hundred fiftieth (1/350) of all of the assets of
the club. Additionally, the ownership interest afforded the individual
the opportunity to vote and become a Board Member. No other class of membership
afforded ownership nor voting rights.
Significant changes to the Bylaws occurred
in March 1970. Prior to such time, the Club allowed women to maintain
and own proprietary membership. However, after March 19, 1970, three key
amendments were made to the Bylaws which Board Members felt effected the
ability of women to hold proprietary memberships.
First, Section 7.5 of the Bylaws was
adopted which stated:
Section 7.5 Male Members. Certificates
of Regular Family Membership shall be issued only in the name of an
adult male person. Proposals for Regular Family Membership shall not
be approved for females or minors. In the case of a married regular
family member, upon termination of the marriage relationship by divorce
or annulment, or in the event of legal separation, the husband shall
continue to be the Regular Family Member, and all rights, privileges
and obligations shall be his. In the event of an award of the Certificate
of Regular Family Membership in final judicial action to the female
spouse, and the male spouse does not forthwith thereafter purchase the
female spouse's interest in the Regular Family Membership, such membership
may, by action of the Board, be terminated.
Additionally, Section 6.2 of the new Bylaws
was amended in order the Board was empowered to terminate an individual
male's regular family membership, should such male wed or marry after
acquiring membership, and the female spouse not meet the standards of
Lastly, the March 1970 Board of Directors
enlarged its own powers through enactment of Section 13.2 of the Bylaws.
This section empowered the Board to amend the establishment's Bylaws without
approval or consent of the Regular Family Membership except in certain
During trial of the action, the members
of the Board of Directors, who had terminated Mrs. W's membership in the
Club, were called to the stand. Certain members" disdain for women
was apparent. For example, one Board Member indicated that it was only
during the period of time that the Club was a "Jewish club"
that "ladies" were allowed to be members of the club.
All Board Members, however, testified
at various times that they terminated the membership of Mrs. W, because
she was a woman. Each board member felt that the Bylaws prohibited them
from allowing her continued membership. (Note, that the Bylaws did not
require this. Even were they to have so required, however, they would
have been contrary to law.)
Thus, the irreconcilable and uncontradicted
truth was simple: Mrs. W was denied membership status at the club based
on her sex.
Accordingly, the issues were clear. Should
a Country Club be entitled to deny membership status to an individual
simply based on that individual's sex? At first blush, many would argue
that a private club, such as a country club, should not be required to
allow women in as members. However, where a club operates as a "business
establishment" conferring benefit to its members, and not as a "true"
private club, the answer was, resoundingly "no".
Evidence of Business
During trial, it was established that
the country club fit the definition of "business establishment"
under California's Unruh Civil Rights Act.
For example, one Board Member testified
to regularly entertaining business associates at the Club. He regularly
took clients to dinner, lunch, and to the bar at the establishment. He
played golf at the establishment with business associates. He testified
to discussing business at the Club with friends, guests and members.
Guests could pay with cash at cash registers
throughout the club and at the bar. In fact, members regularly sought
reimbursement from employers for business entertainment occurring at the
Numerous other professionals (members
of the Club) testified to the business benefits they received while entertaining
business associates at the Club.
A travel agency owner regularly booked
vacations and commercial travel for fellow members at the club.
Doctor members of the club indicated
under oath that they joined the club primarily because of the benefits
of meeting potential patients while there.
In sum, realtors, doctors, travel agents,
and others, all testified that membership in the Club provided them with
distinct business advantages not available non-members of the club.
Not surprisingly, tax deductions were
taken for expenses incurred at the Club while entertaining clients. Additionally,
businesses paid for members" membership at the club.
Lastly, non-members could actually obtain
and pay for tennis, golf and other lessons while at the club, paying directly
with cash. (The club thereby profited from the general public's use -
which was not significantly restricted.)
Accordingly, the question was posed: Was
this a "truly" private club under the Unruh Act, or a business
establishment in which discrimination was proscribed?
Supreme Court Decision
Ultimately, the California Supreme Court
agreed with Mrs. W and the position asserted at trial. The Club was a
business establishment under the Unruh Act. Mrs. W's membership was denied
solely based on her sex. Violation thus occurred.
In announcing the law in this area, the
Court was clear: Sexual discrimination would not be allowed in business
If you or someone you know is a victim
of a Civil Rights or Sexual Discrimination violation,
you need the assistance of The Scarlett Law Group.
today to speak with a California Personal Injury Attorney.