A young man stands in the doorway of a store marked 'White Only, ' circa 1950. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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We are all aware of discrimination laws. You can refuse service but not if the reason falls within the parameters of discrimination laws.

You can’t legally refuse service to Jews or blacks in your restaurant based solely on their religion or skin color. But if they are drunk and disorderly you can.

As we all know, this is a very thin line legally and it should be.

Race, Color, Religion, Sex, Or National Origin

Above are the protections provided federally by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Federal Disabilities Act added more protections.

Included in the ADA (American’s With Disabilities Act), are deafness, blindness, an intellectual disability (formerly termed mental retardation), partially or completely missing limbs or mobility impairments requiring the use of a wheelchair, autism, cancer, cerebral palsy, diabetes, epilepsy, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia.

Kleptomania, pedophilia, exhibitionism, gender identity disorders, voyeurism, etc. are excluded under the definition of "disability" in order to prevent abuse of the statute's purpose.

A condition doesn’t have to be severe or even permanent to be a disability.

What If I Am Within My Rights?

Let’s say you are a restaurant owner and have a particularly good waitress. After a busy shift you might take her hand and tell her she’s doing a great job.

She misunderstands your action and charges you with sexual harassment in the workplace. Does she have a case?

Probably not, however, if the case does make it to court the business owner might be out several thousand dollars just to prove his or her innocence.

While laws are designed to be black and white they are more often gray.

Some Final Thoughts

I suppose the bottom line in business is to serve everyone. Hold your nose if you have a prejudice or bias but the consequences of any alternative action could have a hefty price tag attached especially with our overly litigious society.

I understand the meaning and intents of the discrimination laws, but I also feel that if you stake your whole life into a business, often at great financial risk, you should be free from government control.

If you’re a bigot then your business will probably not be successful anyway. Or you will have a business full of hateful customers. Neither sounds very profitable.

What are your thoughts? Comments below.

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