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Brandon M.
Brandon M., Counselor at Law
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 12201
Experience:  Attorney experienced in numerous areas of law.
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I am a bartender at a faternal order club, I have refused service

Resolved Question:

I am a bartender at a faternal order club, I have refused service to a man because he has threated and harassed me. I called the police recently to have him removed from the bar, I am pretty sure they will fire me over this. If they tell me this is the reason I am fired, do I have a case?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Brandon M. replied 2 years ago.

Brandon M. :

Hello there.

Brandon M. :

Thank you for your question. Can you tell me a bit more what you mean when you say that he has threatened and harassed you?

Customer:

He has told me: I was ugly, not girly enough, that I dress like trash, that I was stupid. He has told me he could get rid of a body, and that some people deserved to be shot, then a lot of talk about his vast knowledge of guns and weapons. Harassing me by staring at me and not leaving when I have asked him, standing at bar talking with others about guns etc. through my entire shift.

Brandon M. :

Is there any reason to believe that any of this behavior is related to your gender?

Customer:

Yes my gender, my age, and that I am a stand up for myself.

Brandon M. :

What is your age?

Customer:

I am 30 but the average age of the members of this club is 55 but the average age of the board of trustees is more like 60-65

Brandon M. :

What reason(s) do you have to believe that your gender is a factor? You said he was staring at you, but it wasn't clear to me if he was "checking you out" or giving you dirty looks. Why might your gender be a factor?

Customer:

He is a cross dresser, it is dirty looks. My gender I believe is a factor in the vote made by the board, that said I had to serve him.

Customer:

This club still segregates the men from the women. Aerie and Auxiliary.

Brandon M. :

Interesting.

Brandon M. :

So the men and women are physically separated as a part of the regular operations?

Customer:

In their meetings, and in the fund raising functions, it is men against the women, the women make all the money. The men choose how to spend it. There are no women in the board of trustees and I believe one women was voted in but never actually allowed into the aerie because she threatened them with a law suit

Customer:

I never saw her again...

Brandon M. :

Ok, let me explain how the law works in Washington:

Brandon M. :

To rephrase, the question is when is it legal to terminate a bartender at a private club if the bartender refuses to serve one of the clubs members. I will start by saying that, because the nuances of every case are different, you should not rely on this information as advice or apply it to a specific situation without a more thorough consultation with counsel.


Washington is an employment-at-will state, which basically means that either the employer or the employee can modify or terminate the employment relationship at most any time and for most any reason. For this reason, unlike some other jurisdictions, there is no presumption that the employer has an unequal bargaining position, so there are no extra protections in place for the employee; if either side does not like their arrangement, they have the right to quit. The employee can quit the relationship if he does not like the employer, and the employer can quit the relationship if it does not like the employee. So an employer can generally discriminate against an employee for most any reason. It's not fair, but it's generally legal.


 


This is not without limitation. Some reasons for discrimination are illegal; for example, it is illegal to discriminate against an employee because of their race/color, gender, religion, ethnicity, age (if over 40) disability, genetic information, or in retaliation because the employee is a whistle-blower. It is not illegal, however, to modify or terminate the employment for reasons that are simply unfair or ill-informed. The breakdown of inter-personal relationships is generally a valid reason for termination.

If the employer has created or allowed a hostile work environment, meaning that it is hostile to the employee because of an illegal reason, then legal action may be taken against the employer, i.e. the employer can be sued. If it is simply a matter of the employer choosing their buddy over the employee with no illegal factor coming into play, no legal action may be taken.

Brandon M. :

So, to summarize, it is generally legal to fire an employee because the employer chooses to side with their member, regardless of whether it is fair, unless there is an illegal factor that is considered, such as gender.

Brandon M. :

Does that make sense?

Customer:

Does this change because of our bar status? "Right to refuse service at anytime."

Brandon M. :

Absolutely not.

Brandon M. :

And those signs are laughable.

Brandon M. :

Posting a sign saying that you have the right to refuse service at any time doesn't magically circumvent the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

Brandon M. :

Again, for legal reasons, any information I provide should not be applied to a specific situation, but the "right to refuse service at anytime" does not give someone the right to refuse service at anytime.

Customer:

With my liquor license I took on absolute liability, if don't cut someone off and they drive and kill someone I can get in as much trouble as the driver. If I feel someone is threatening me and or my other patrons, I should not have to serve them! Especially when they have threatened me in the past.

Customer:

I don't have any way of making this right?

Customer:

or protecting myself at work.

Brandon M. :

Are the employers telling you to serve this guy even when he should be cut off due to intoxication? That wasould be a separate issue.

Brandon M. :

*That would be a separate issue.

Customer:

Serve him no matter what

Brandon M. :

Again, because the nuances of every case are different, you should not rely on this information as advice or apply it to a specific situation without a more thorough consultation with counsel. That said, it is illegal to terminate a bartender because she cut off a customer's service as mandated under the law and/or according to the rules of her licensing board.

Customer:

Would it be worth it to seek out a lawyer in my area?

Brandon M. :

This wouldn't mean an employer couldn't generally order an employee to serve a specific individual, but not to the point where it exposes the employee legally.

Brandon M. :

In answer to your last question, my biggest legal concern is this gender issue. Irrespective of the issues that have arisen with this one member, I would want to assess whether you are being discriminated against based on your gender. So that might be worth an evaluation. As long as you are there, the other issues can be discussed as well.

I am really surprised that they are telling you to serve this guy even if he is intoxicated. Are you sure that was the intent?

Brandon M. :

I suppose that nothing should surprise me.

Brandon M. :

It is just unusual for an employer to be so blatant about it.

Customer:

Oh golly, spend an hour in a busy bar around 1:30am and watch, your view of humanity will change. It is the board of trustees, a panel of men who dictated this. All they know is that I am not listening to them, they don't know anything about the laws. That why I was wondering if they said the reason I was fired was because I refused service if I had a case. I know they can fire me at any time, but without elaboration then I have nothing. Thank you very much for your time and advice.

Brandon M. :

I do recommend discussing the specifics with an attorney if you plan to make a stand. At the very least, you can discuss how to go about gathering the evidence that you would need to prove your case, if you have one.

Brandon M. :

I would hate for you to have a case, but not be able to do anything about it due to a lack of evidence.

Customer:

I have started documenting his behavior and having other document it as well. I wrote a letter to the board of trustees expressing my concerns about my safety with I plan on having them sign.

Customer:

Again thank you and have a great day.

Brandon M., Counselor at Law
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 12201
Experience: Attorney experienced in numerous areas of law.
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