Do businesses have the right to refuse anyone? - Legal Up (2023)

With the encouragement of privatization and startups, many businesses have come up which offer unique services or the same service in a unique way. But as the businesses are becoming more and more prevalent, the question that may come to mind is, Can they refuse to offer their services to anyone?

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Do you think businesses should have the right to refuse their services to anyone?

Do businesses have the right to refuse anyone? - Legal Up (1)

In restaurants, pubs, hotels, various other public places we have seen various signs such as pets not being allowed.

But in some places, we may have also noticed a sign that states “We reserve the right to refuse to anyone”. That is not just a sarcastic sign or “Just for display” but a part of restaurant policy.

So the question arises “Who can businesses refuse to provide services to?”

Right to refuse service to anyone in the US and India.

The Constitution of India promises that the citizens will not be discriminated against based on their gender, place of birth, race, caste, religion etc. The government of India has entered into many international treaties agreeing to protect citizens and foreigners alike from such discrimination.

However, entry to public places such as restaurants and hotels is not a protected right except for those belonging to Harijan castes or other scheduled classes of people.

Indian restaurants, bars, and hotels routinely disbar citizens as well as foreigners and discriminate on grounds of sex, place of birth, race, and religion – and sometimes even age and disability.

Article 15(2)of the Constitution of India 1949 states that
“No person shall, on only grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, being subject to disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to;
a) access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and places of public entertainment……”

Indian Constitution

Under American Law, a business owner has the right to refuse service to customers but some federal or state laws have made it illegal to discriminate on factors such as race, caste, sex, religion, or even national origin.

As said by Alexandra Brodsky, a civil rights attorney at National Women’s Law Centre. TheCivil Rights Act of 1964explicitly prohibits restaurants from refusing service to patrons based on race, colour, religion, or national origin.

Right to refuse service based on personal beliefs, caste and religion.

Do businesses have the right to refuse anyone? - Legal Up (2)

The US is a federal democracy, therefore each state has different laws applicable within its territory. What might be illegal in one state might be legal in another.

For example,Arizonais one of six states that allow health providers to refuse service to anyone based on personal beliefs according to theNational Council of State Legislatures.

The other five states include Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Idaho and South Dakota. It is also known as the “conscience clause” gives pharmacists the right to refuse certain services if it violates their religious or personal beliefs.

Therefore in this case the pharmacist is not discriminating against someone but doing what he himself believes is right by his beliefs.

As Karl Marx said, ” Religion is the opium of people.”

Discrimination on the basis of one’s religion or caste is one of the biggest challenges in India.

It is illegal in India as well as the United States of America to discriminate against a person based on his/her religion. This is fairly common in the minorities in India who are denied access to restaurants and clubs and some of them are not even allowed to sit with the high castes of the society and labelling them as untouchables (“Acchut”).

This is still a major problem in the rural areas of India where the “lower caste” people are treated inhumanely by the “upper caste” people.

The feud in the Hindu-Muslim community in India is always not one to be overlooked in the crowd. Although the society has become more and more liberal and open-minded which is exactly what India needs but still there are instances when a person of a Muslim community has been denied service by the owner as he considers himself to be an orthodox Hindu and it would not be ethical for him to serve a member of the Muslim community or vice-versa.

Right to refuse service based on political beliefs.

A famous example of refusal to provide service based on political belief is when Former White House Senator, Sarah Sanders was refused service by a restaurant in Virginia simply because she was Former President Donald Trump’s Press Secretary.

Had the same thing been done in Washington DC it would have been illegal but in Virginia there are is no provision regarding refusal to provide service based on political belief. In Virginia, it might come across as rude or uncivil, but not illegal.

In India also there have been various instances where a person has been denied entrance to a particular place or service in any restaurant due to his political beliefs, he being the supporter of an opposition party as compared to that of the owner.

Right to refuse service based on sexual orientation

The Civil Rights Act of 1984, prohibits discrimination in public businesses on the basis of race, colour, religion or national origin but does not include specific sexual orientation or gender identity protections.

Whereas Colorado along with various other states prohibits businesses open to the public from denying service on the basis of race, religion, and sexual orientation.

A butcher in Colorado refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple based on his personal belief.

In India also the LGBTQ community has faced various backlashes. These issues mainly occur due to the existence of an orthodox mentality in which people think that being homosexual or being bisexual is a disgrace to society and it would be a stain on their reputation if their son, daughter or brother, sister has a different sexual preference than what is normally accepted in the society.

In India people also link these types of things with religion and find reasons that it is against our religion and people go to great lengths to do what they think is right.

Right to refuse service based on a person’s attire or clothes.

Do businesses have the right to refuse anyone? - Legal Up (3)

We have all seen signs such as “no shirt, no shoes, no service.” These rules are very much valid as trying to enforce a proper dress code is not illegal.

A New York judge dismissed a lawsuit by a man who claimed that he was unfairly kicked out of a bar in New York bar for wearing a cap that said Make America Great Again showing that he was a supporter of President Donald Trump.

Let’s say you walk into a sports bar and that bar is native to fans of the new york giants and the bar has a policy that people only wearing the New York Giants jersey are welcome inside. but a fan eager to enter the bar but not ready to wear the jersey as he himself is a fan of the Green Bay Packers and enters the bar wearing the Packers jersey.

Such a person can be refused service if the owner of the bar pleases so and it would be legal. it is just his personal beliefs and based on that he has made a rule for his business so that he can build a community where all fans of a particular team can come and hang out together.

These things are also fairly common in India. A Judge of Madras High Court was denied access into a cricket club because he was wearing a shirt and Dhoti instead of pants. Therefore it can be highlighted that it is fairly common for restaurants, clubs, and bars to refuse service or entry to anyone based on the attire of the guest.

Refusal to provide service to someone based on which state they are from.

The constitution of India guarantees equal status to all citizens irrespective of their place of birth.

However, the treatment of people from certain states, such as Bihar or North-Eastern states, in certain establishments is prima facie discriminatory.

Starting from keeping them waiting for long periods to refusing entry, use of regional slur and even eviction after admission is quite common.


In the end, I would like to say that these things are bound to happen when people of different beliefs and from different walks of life come together to live in a peaceful way.

But what makes us human is our ability to grow from our mistakes and to learn from them and come together and treat each with equality not just for the sake of the law but for a law that is greater than any other i.e., the law of humanity.

The mentality of the people is evolving and they are accepting the new viewpoints that society has to offer.

This article is written by Sparsh Jain, a 3rd-year law student at Symbiosis Law School, Noida.


Do businesses have the right to refuse anyone? - Legal Up? ›

What is the right to refuse service? Federal law in the U.S. indeed says businesses have a right to refuse service to anyone. Here's the catch: They can refuse service unless the company is discriminating against a particular class under federal, state, or local law.

What gives a business the right to refuse service? ›

As long as businesses can offer legitimate reasons for refusing service, and they're applied equally to everyone, there likely won't be a problem. As a small business owner, you have the right to refuse service to customers for certain reasons: for example, if people are being disruptive or intoxicated.

Can you refuse to do business with someone? ›

The answer is yes, it is legal. Businesses do have a constitutional right to refuse service to anyone, especially if they are making a scene or disrupting service to other customers in their business.

Can you refuse service to a customer who is being rude? ›

You can ask them to leave. If your business is closed and a customer wants service, you have the right to refuse them. If a customer is causing a scene by yelling, swearing, or making a mess, or they're clearly intoxicated, you have a right to refuse them.

Can businesses discriminate based on race? ›

You cannot discriminate against or harass applicants, employees or former employees because of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information (including family medical history).

What is the Civil Rights Act right to refuse service? ›

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act maintains no business is allowed to turn away a customer based on the person being a member of the following protected status: Race or color. National origin or citizenship status. Religious beliefs.

Did the Supreme Court rule that businesses can discriminate? ›

Express Yourself – Supreme Court Rules that Businesses May Deny “Expressive Services” to the Public Based on Their Owner's Beliefs. Businesses providing goods and services to the public cannot be forced to provide expressive goods and services that are contrary to their beliefs.

Can you push someone out of your business? ›

In most cases, a business partner can't push you out. But there are ways that a business partner might encourage you to leave or buy you out of the business. It depends on the law that applies to the situation and the agreements in place. For example, your business partner can seek to enforce a valid buyout agreement.

How do you get someone's business shut down? ›

There are actually several steps you need to complete in order to get the response you desire.
  1. Step 1: Speak to Managment. ...
  2. Step 2: Contact Corporate. ...
  3. Step 3: File on the State Level. ...
  4. Step 4: Report to Credit Bureaus. ...
  5. Step 5: File a BBB Complaint. ...
  6. Step 6: Contact the Media. ...
  7. Step 7: Involve the Federal Government.
Mar 16, 2023

How do you get out of business with someone? ›

Here are five steps you'll want to take.
  1. Review your partnership agreement. ...
  2. Approach your partner to discuss the current business situation. ...
  3. Prepare dissolution papers. ...
  4. Close all joint accounts and resolve the finances. ...
  5. Communicate the change to clients.

What are the 4 main reasons for refusal of service? ›

Common reasons businesses may refuse service and are not discriminating include:
  • Dress code. For example, a customer comes to your restaurant with thongs on. ...
  • Disruptive behaviour. ...
  • Legal requirements. ...
  • Safety reasons.

Can you get sued for being rude to a customer? ›

In order for a plaintiff to prevail with a lawsuit, there must be an existing framework for recovery. Simply put, individuals generally may not have a successful cause of action based on someone else simply being rude to them. However, state statutes and case law determine whether there is a recognized cause of action.

How do you shut down a rude person? ›

10 smart ways to deal with rude people
  1. Remember, sometimes the rude person is you. ...
  2. Don't take it personally (even if it's personal). ...
  3. Find out why. ...
  4. Be objective and analyze the rudeness. ...
  5. Don't join the drama club. ...
  6. Let it drop and walk away. ...
  7. Consider offering help. ...
  8. Understand rudeness as a habit.

What are the 9 grounds of discrimination? ›

The inclusive school prevents and combats discrimination. It is one that respects, values and accommodates diversity across all nine grounds in the equality legislation – gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race and membership of the Traveller community.

What can companies not discriminate against? ›

California law protects individuals from illegal discrimination by employers based on the following:
  • Race, color.
  • Ancestry, national origin.
  • Religion, creed.
  • Age (40 and over)
  • Disability, mental and physical.
  • Sex, gender (including pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or related medical conditions)
  • Sexual orientation.

What is legal discrimination? ›

Legal discrimination is defined as “where people have created and enforce laws to uphold [...] discrimination” (Krieger, 2014, p. 648). Legal discrimination has direct effects on the health of women and girls in Morocco and the United States.

What is the most valid reason for refusing service? ›

Underage individuals. Those who have over-consumed are showing symptoms of intoxication. Excessively rowdy or unruly customers. A person is harassing staff or other customers.

What is an example of the right to refuse service? ›

As private businesses, stores have the right to set their own rules and policies. Moreover, stores may refuse service if a customer is violating one of their specific rules or policies. For example, a store may refuse service to a customer who is bringing a pet into a place that does not allow pets.

What do you say to refuse service? ›

It is important to always be respectful and polite. Diffuse the situation by blaming refusal on the law. Explain to the customer that you do not have a choice. You could say “Your behaviour is indicating signs of intoxication, Due to the law, I'm not able to serve you any more alcohol.

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