DISCRIMINATION AGAINST BIKERS ON THE BASIS OF CLOTHING OR MOTORCYCLE CLUB MEMBERSHIP IS ILLEGAL IN CALIFORNIA

Norman Gregory Fernandez, Esq.

As you know, we bikers tend to wear leather jackets and clothing which might be objectionable to some people in our society. Furthermore, some bikers are members of motorcycle clubs. Members of motorcycle clubs sometimes if not always wear their club patch on the back of their jacket or their vest when they are out riding.

It has been reported to me that some establishments and even public venues are discriminating against bikers because of the way they dress, and/or because they are wearing motorcycle club patches.

This type of discrimination against bikers, and motorcycle club members is for the most part illegal in the state of California.

The Unruh Civil Rights Act (CC §51 et seq.) provides that in part that: “All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal, and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin or blindness or other physical disability are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.” Any person whose exercise or enjoyment of rights secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States has been interfered with, or attempted to be interfered with may institute and prosecute a civil action for injunctive and other appropriate equitable relief, including the award of compensatory monetary damages.

The Supreme Court ruled in the case of Cohen V. California, 403 US 15 (1971) that individuals have the constitutional right under the First Amendment to wear clothing which displays writing or designs. In addition, the right of an individual to freedom of association has long been recognized and protected by the United States Supreme Court Thus, a person’s right to wear the clothing of his choice, as well as his right to belong to any club or organization of his choice, is constitutionally protected. Persons or establishments who discriminate on the basis of clothing or club membership are subject to a lawsuit by the person who was wrongly discriminated against by such persons.

Although restaurants and similar types of establishments are allowed to enact uniform dress codes for their establishment, they are not allowed to arbitrarily discriminate against bikers, or motorcycle club members, just because they don’t like the way they are dressed.

For instance, let’s say that a restaurant has a rule that requires all persons to wear shirts and shoes, and that “they can refuse to provide service to anyone.” Let’s say that a motorcycle club member walks into the restaurant wearing his club patch, and motorcycle boots. If the restaurant refuses to provide service to this person just because he is wearing his clubs patch and for no other reason, this would be a violation of the law, notwithstanding the fact that they have stated that they can refuse to provide service to anyone.

The Unruh Civil Rights Act specifically prohibits this type of discrimination. Furthermore, the case law on point specifically prohibits this type of discrimination. Owners of establishments, or venues, cannot just arbitrarily discriminate because they don’t like what someone is wearing. If an establishment does have a dress code, they must enforce the dress code uniformly so that it is applicable to all, and so that it is not enforced in a discriminatory manner.

If you feel that you have been the victim of discrimination based upon the fact that you were a biker, or because of your motorcycle club patch, I strongly suggest that you consult with a civil rights attorney, and initiate legal action.

By Norman Gregory Fernandez, ESQ. , Copyright 2006

34 Responses to DISCRIMINATION AGAINST BIKERS ON THE BASIS OF CLOTHING OR MOTORCYCLE CLUB MEMBERSHIP IS ILLEGAL IN CALIFORNIA

  1. Norm: There are a lot of bars in Florida that have signs that say “NO COLORS”. A language stating that you can not wear club patches or shirts. I do not know if it is illegal in Florida but I do know that it is strongly enforced. It does not seem fair. I was at a bar for a Poker Run in Palm Bay, Florida. The bar at the time was named Memory Lane. There was a sign that said “NO COLORS ALLOWED” There is a Christian, non drinking club that was asked to take their vestd off or leave. We also have a Military Vets Bike Club and when they ride they must wear their colors, as does their wife if she is riding with her husband and they also got onto them. Now the place has new owners nd changed the name to “WET SPOT” and the sign was not there when we did the TOYS FOR TOTS RUN at Christmas. In restaurants it is a health issue requiring a shirt and shoes.

  2. Yesterday was a perfect day for a ride in the wind. No need for long sleeves or jackets. We stopped at a resaurant in the Ocala area and a couple of the guys had on tank tops and one had a t-shirt without sleeves, hemmed not one with the sleeves cut out. In order to eat there, they had to purchase a t-shirt that had short sleeves. The restaurant had a sign reflecting this on the wall at the hostess station. Nobody said anything about us women wearing our spandex tank tops. Does not seem fair. You must abide by the rules if you want to eat there at 16.99 the average price for a entree, because the other sign said they had the right to refuse service to anyone. Check for six people without booze was $226.75. Instead of booze we had appitizers and a couple desserts. Mind you the guys were not wearing rag tanks…..they were Genuine Harley Davidson shirts with Harley Stores logos on them. Not cheap shirts. They cost around $25.00 each. A Pepsi was $2.29 with one free refill.

  3. Our thoughts on the subject was we would never stop there again. Our food server said it had something to to do with the underarm hair. We thought that was a hoot. One of the guys mentioned back in the day when Madonna did not shave under her arms and then we decided they would have let her in without buying a t-shirt. Guess it is sex discrimination.

  4. My husbands place of empolyment just made it mandatory for all bikes to park in designated bike parking only(between 2 buildings where the bikes cannot be seen). They are not allowed to park in the main parking lot. If they do they will be told to punch out and move their bike, once they punch out they will receive a disaplinary point against them (7 points and you are fired.) My husband also has a handicap tag and was told they will make a place over in bike parking for him. Is there anything that can be done to fight this discrimination??

  5. Karen aka Mongoose!!! Your story is unbelievable. I’d take Norm’s advise and call a lawyer. I would want to be able to see my bike. Looks like there is a all out assult on discriminating people who ride bikes.

  6. Norm, I need a civil rights attorney. Can you help point me in the right direction?

    About the public establishment which discriminated against me and my wife…

    Last Friday night (June 8th, 2007) about 9:30pm my wife, myself and two friends were out enjoying the evening when we thought we’d stop and let the girls get a drink. We stopped at Ozzy’s Nottingham Pub.
    Before we even parked our bikes we witnessed a motorcycle accident, so we were out directing traffic until the paramedics arrived. At that point we were starting towards the front door of this public establishment. Before we even got to the door the bartender (Cybil) came outside to tell us that we could not be served because we were wearing colors. I proceeded to inform her that we were NOT an MC and that we were a Veteran’s Support Organization. I went on to tell her that there was nothing whatsoever even relating to motorcycles on my vest. She said no, you are an MC and those are colors and we can’t serve you, please leave. So we left.

    A few days later (06-12-07 – 14:30), a friend of mine and I went back up there to try to get served again. This time we had flyers from the Organization stating that we were NOT a motorcycle club. I gave the owner a copy of that and a copy of ORC 4112.02 (G). He said that they have had that rule since 1982. So, I called the Akron police and they dispatched Officer Hill, patrol car # 402. He told me that he couldn’t make a report because it was a civil case and not a criminal case. However, Officer Hill did state that this incident was on file at the Akron police department. and that I was refused service base on my attire, more specifically, we were refused service because we had on Veterans Support patches…

    The organization I belong to is called the Paladin Knights, Inc.

    Paladin Knights, Inc.
    Corporate Office
    P.O. Box 391
    Ravenna, Ohio 44226
    330.322.4126

    Ozzy’s Nottingham Pub
    1390 Brittain Rd
    Akron, OH 44310
    330.633.7592

  7. Okay, perhaps its becouse I’m from TEXAS but the “Will not serve Colors”
    just went all over me! I am stunned that our right to ride and
    enter an establishment is “colored” by our patch, our leathers
    and our boots. We freed the slaves, we fight and protect the weak
    but we who own a bike are treated as less by the uninformed masses.
    I hope OH gets a GREAT civil attorney and the pub in question
    learns how to respect people. Great blog…keep it up.

  8. Could you help me find state statute in CT for motorcycle attire and colors. I already have cohen vs california #403 us15 (1971)

    Thanks
    Dino

  9. My husband rides with a motorcycle club. He is Mexican-American, an ex-con, ex-addict and is 55. We run a non-profit and have housing for people in recovery. We have been doing this for 6 years and have housed undreds of people. The mentalhealth provider in our County (CA) has spead lies about my husband: e.g. he launders drug money for his bike club, sells drugs. A woman that is 2nd in command is married to a police officer and she is responsible for the false allegations. They have funding for housing addicts, however,they will not fund anyone who wants to come to OUR recovery house. Today, one of the employees told my husband that they cannot pay for “Daniel” because they were not supposed to send anyone to our house. The police stop my husband frequently when he is on his bike and driving just a car. We have been black-balled: because that agency controlls the State funding for housing addicts, they will not allow any other agecy to refer addicts to us and pay for them (e.g., “Daniel” referred by the Probation Dept. in charge of mentally ill violent offenders). We have lost a house in forclosure, because we did not have enough people in it (there are plenty of homeless addicts, but they have no money). We have housed many people at our own exense–my husband and I work other jobs to support ourselves, our 3 grandchildren, and the recovery homes. The recovery homes are not a good business, but my husband is passionate about giving back. If the mental health agency puts us under, there will be more people living,and dying, on the street. Where can I turn?

  10. Alright there is a simple and easy solution only if the higher ups, as in the president and other council of all the chapters will allow it. Softpatches. Just make shirts with everything that would be on your colors. Make sure its a normal short sleeve shirt so they can’t say anything about your shirt not being illegal or something as one lady has said in another comment in here.

    I live in Texas, 16, but I am a Junior member of a Club. Here in Texas I have seen only two bars total that say your no allowed to wear colors. One of them didn’t have a sign and the owner went up to the group and told them to leave if the colors didn’t vanish. Now the asking Gold Colors of the Gypsy’s being taken off is enough to anger any biker who has already stopped at 3 bars during the poker run. They calmed the guy down and basically shut the Poker Run and bar down by telling everyone that came up to get the noodles (I think it was noodles that day) for the finishing of the poker run.

    So right now the chapter that I am in (If you could say that. Not really in I guess) is trying to come up with a soft patch design since the Pickle is Copy-righted and the Internatioal President isn’t letting them use the pickle.

    I don’t get why colors should be taken off. Its an ID card that you would probably trust more then the ID card in your backpocket

  11. We recently held a benefit concert for Hospice, and Law enforcement was out in full force pulling people over for petty stuuf. Loud pipes, Bars too high, etc. Clubs were even being pulled over and pictures taken of each member for “Gang task force” purposes. We were told from the start that the local Sheriff’s dept would be on hand to ensure “compliance” at our event.
    They even went so far as to call Hospice and the hall where we were holding the event to try and discourage them away from us.
    Is this legal? Seems like discrimination if they don’t do the same thing for local wine tasting events.

    Earl Gardner
    Molochs MC
    Central Coast
    Secretary / Chaplain

  12. Norm,
    I appreciate your response. Yes, We have been seeing more and more of it lately. this along with a new bill I just saw that recently passed giving law enforcement BILLIONS to fight gangs.
    I just wrote a letter to the local paper regarding our event.
    We had the Fryed Brothers playing and an article in Clearlake CA paper where the Fryed’s had just played said that local law there had associated them with the xxxx, xxxx, and Molochs.
    72 people turned out for that event after again, local law, were pulling people over left and right and scared people away.
    Anyway, we appreciate your fight.

    Earl Gardner
    Molochs MC
    Atascadero CA

  13. I am sick and tired of these geeks having the right to discrimanate people who ride
    motorcycles or look the put. I was a bar one time and was ask to leave because I had
    on a tank top. I ask the bar tender how come I had to leave. He said because I had
    tattoos and I had to keep them coverd and I work out with weights and I have big arms. He said that it look like I was going to tear the place apart. And yet there
    this little geek sitting at the other end of the bar and you guest it he was had on a
    tank top and no one said a word to him. I was not there to start trouble. Just have a
    few drinks and maybe talk to a few girls. So I told the bar tenter to go f@#k himself
    and walk out.

  14. I went to The ##### ###### Club House in Ventura it was an event to get people to bring toys for the needy in Ventura. I was there and the Gang Task Force and Ventura PD showed up taking pictures of all the bikes and Lic Plates isnt this harassment and blocked the street off on both ends to keep people from leaving and if you did leave they would stop you and harass you. I had a friend taking home another friends bike and he was following me on the bike and I was followiing the unmarked car and they pulled over and got behind the bike and pulled him over keeping him there for about 30 minutes trying to get him to say whos bike it was since it was registered in a females name even though they knew whos bike it was. What can be done about this kind of BS…. There were other clubs there with patches as well if I remeber correctly there was patches from 3 other clubs just having a BBQ and a few drinks nothing illegal was going on that I could see and never seen any one driving under the influence… Thanks shed alittle light on this subjest

  15. My dream since a kid was to have a bike and now that I do I must deal with people looking funny at me. If they only tried riding a motorcycle they would realize the sense of freedom we get. They would probably stop staring and ask for a ride.

  16. I am a Patch holder, I am not a gang member… Do brothers in my club do asinine things? Yes, and they pay the price. 90% + of my brothers are hard working family men. Some are in Iraq or afghanistan. Some have family fighting there. Many, like myself, are veterans(USMC 83-89). So, because of the actions of a few, I am placed on the gang taskforce list and fall under the RICO Act? I researched Police corruption, and individuals in law inforcement that have been charged with various crimes here in Nevada… Child molesters, drug trafficers, wife beaters, the list goes on. Does that make every cop guilty? No, I am not a fucking idiot. I understand that there are always a few bad apples in a basket. But I, as a M/C member, do not have to worry about Federal funding, monthly quotas, or kissing the ass of a politician (unless she’s hot…)
    My story: I was working at a public building. A place where Marshals are door guards. I was working there for approx 45 days on a swing shift. The job was given to me as a favor from my boss, it paid $4.00 extra for shift work. I went thru the back ground check and was issued a security badge. Hell, I wasn’t worried, I have a clean record. I’m so clean infact, I squeek when I walk. Several months earlier I had went thru another background check to work at the State Prison.
    I am in the mechanical room across the street from the main building getting dressed for a nice night of welding. Two Marshals enter and ask my apprentice if his name was Monkey. He said no and pointed at me. The first Marshal asked if I was Monkey, while the second Marshal pulled his weapon and hid it behind his back. The first thing I thought was that they were making a big deal out of my scooter being illegally parked right outside the door. Hell, don’t shoot! I’ll move the damn thing! The Marshals took me outside, had me interlock my fingers above my head, and searched me. They found a knife in a sheath on my side that I use to cut insulation. I had just put it on, it stays in my tool box, which stays in the job box at night. I tried to explain this to them. No, it was a concealed weapon.
    They then put me in handcuffs. Now this my seem odd to hear from a member of an “outlaw motorcycle gang”, but I have never been in cuffs before. The amount of pain that those things can cause is amazing. I asked the Marshal to loosen them twice with out result. After approx 45 min, they released me. “I will release your right hand first, when I do, place your right hand back on your head”. He released my hand, I could not raise my arm. It hurt so damn bad. I later found out that this style of handcuffing is done intentionally so when you are released, you are unable to sock the cop in the mouth. I also found out that this is considered “deadly force”. The Marshal told me someone saw me enter the building and that they did not feel comfortable with me there(?). The Marshals also searched my work area, expressed concern that I had been in, and had access to the basement of the public building dozens of times, and took pictures of my cut.
    From this, I lost my $4.00 shift pay, my insulation knife, and my character has be tarnished thru the eyes of my co-worker, my apprentice, my company, my union, and my 12 year old son. He saw the whole thing go down. I had forgot my lunch, and my wife and son was bringing it to me. They pulled up right when I was being cuffed. My wrists swelled up. My wife took pictures of them when I got home. 4 weeks later, I have numbness from the tip of my thumb to the tip of my index finger. After working with tools for about 2 to 3 hours, I get intense pain in my hand. I have been trying to hide it at work, but my production has droped dramatically, and the pain is getting worse. Right now my hand feels like it is going to start to melt from this typing. I have actually thought of faking an injury at work so I would be covered if there is permanent damage. Sometimes it sucks being honest, I couldn’t do that to my company.

    Well, thanx for letting me vent. Think I’ll go find something criminal, mean, and nasty to do. Or I could just go play a game of catch with my son before it gets too dark, and before my hand does, infact, melt off. FTW, FTS, and FU.

  17. Same here in California. An establishment has the right to establish a dress code, but they cannot discriminate on the basis or race, sex, religion, national origin, etc.

    Furthermore, they cannot selectively enforce their dress code policy. For instance if the establishment will allow a certain clubs colors but not another’s that would be illegal.

    If they say no colors as a dress code than it has to be uniformly enforced to be legal for it to be legal.

    The problem herein lies with establishments who say they can refuse to provide service to anyone and then refuse to provide service to bikers or motorcycle club members for no other reason than they are bikers. That would be a violation of case law.

    Norm

  18. It sounds like a crazy dress code to me! Hell in Court they make us male lawyers wear suits and ties, yet the female lawyers get to wear whatever they want. I saw one female lawyer wearing a jacket with basically a tank top underneath with her you know whatskees popping out.

    It’s just now fair; but then again I am not complaining?

    With respect to the dress code at the place you went to, I would say that if could be fought on the basis of sex discrimination.

    Norm

  19. Here is what I will do, I will put my feelers out for a Civil Rights Lawyer in your area. If I get some bites, I will forward them your contact information and then you can go from there.

    Do me a favor and send all of the post information to my law firm email at law@norman-law.com so that I can forward your info easier to interested lawyers.

    As for me, I am too far away from you to handle this case myself, otherwise I would!

    Good Luck,

    Norm

  20. Earl what you experienced is going on all over the country. All law enforcement needs to be able to do is articulate facts that raise a reasonable suspicion that an infraction (traffic violation/pipes too loud/burnt out light, etc.), or a crime has been committed in order to do a traffic stop. Once a stop has been done, an officer can do a reasonable investigation, a pat down search of your outer clothing for weapons, etc. If you are in a car, they can even go into the car to look for weapons that could be within your reach. Opening locked things such as a locked glove compartment, trunk, or other locked item would require probable cause that a crime is or has been committed by the person. An arrest automatically gives them the right to search an entire vehicle.

    Believe it or not this same thing happened to a Lawyers motorcycle club back east. This club has not only lawyers as members, but State and Federal Judges! No shit!

    Whether or not what happened was legal would require a detailed review of the facts, however it seems to me that you and the other clubs were victims of First Amendment violations, i.e. the freedom to associate with whoever you want, and to wear whatever you want! There may also be defamatory violations as well but this would be in the civil realm.

    I always tell club members to have their members carry tape recorders so that they can record their interactions with law enforcement. I further tell club members to have either members, prospects, hangarounds, etc., or the persons riding in the chase truck or car to have a video cameras at the ready to record interactions with law enforcement.

    Without knowing more, I cannot comment more, but to be frank, this shit is happening all over the nation right now. There is a concerted effort by law enforcement to shut down motorcycle clubs. At least that is what is seems like to me.

    Norm

  21. It flat out sucks Earl. We all know what is going on and it is not just happening to clubs, it is happening to slick backs as well.

    In the end, us lawyers, at least on my end, are fighting the good fight. It’s about freedom and the United States Constitution. Fight for your rights or lose your rights, it is as simple as that!

    By the way, my policy here on the blog is to allow posters to name their own clubs if they want, but not other clubs for obvious reasons! I am a lawyer for one of the clubs you mentioned. No big deal.

    Anyway, I see you guys around all the time, and you guys are OK with me. Some of your brothers were very hospitable to me on a run from Frisco to the valley when it was just me and my old lady going down the 101. Take care man and if you need to talk you can contact me at 1-800-816-1LAW .

    I am going to be out of the office today, but I will be checking my messages.

    Norm

  22. First off Jesse it is my policy on the Biker Law Blog to not publish club names on the Blog unless a member of the actual club makes a comment with their MC affiliation in the comment. I therefore blanked out the MC you mentioned.

    I have also read some newspaper reports about what happened at the Toy Run and it sounds like a bunch of bullshit to me. One account even states that there was a law enforcement “tank” at one of the stops along the coast. There are other accounts from the newspaper articles that are worse than yours.

    It makes no sense to me whatsoever why law enforcement would be rousting a toy run!

    My first impression on what happened is law enforcement overkill, and a flat out rousting of the club and people coming out for the toy run. It kind of sounds like something that would be done in a 3rd world country or North Korea, but guess what, this is the good old United States of America! We are very quickly becoming a Police State. This is the subject for another article!

    Law Enforcement is allowed to stop vehicles if they have articulatable facts which lead to reasonable suspicion that an infraction or violation of the law has occurred. They can also do a stop if they observe an infraction or violation of the law, or have probable cause to believe the same. Furthermore, they can conduct a reasonable investigation upon making a stop. The US Supreme Court made this so during the Republican Reagan era. What is reasonable? It would be up to a jury to decide.

    There are no laws that prohibit law enforcement from taking pictures of motorcycles and license plates in a public place. With respect to their blocking off both ends of the street and harassing people as they left, that would probably go way beyond the standard of a legal road block, and could be legally actionable. It would depend on many factors. I myself attended a MC party up on Oakland a couple of years ago and dealt with the same type of thing. When they found out that I was a lawyer, that I was totally sober, and had no wants or warrants they quickly let me go.

    The bottom line is this, you can file a formal complaint with the law enforcement agency that was responsible for this nightmare. If specific officers were violating yours or others civil rights you should make a complaint against those specific officers.

    If you believe that your civil rights were violated you may call me at my office at 800-816-1Law, ext. 3 to discuss the issue and see if there might be grounds for a case.

    Take Care,

    Norm

  23. Sounds like you got a raw deal Monkey. You may want to consult with a Workers Compensation Attorney in Nevada because you were injured on the job and might be entitled to compensation for the injury.

    You may also want to talk to a civil rights attorney in Nevada to see what can be done about the situation.

    It is one thing venting, it is another thing doing something about it.

    Norm

  24. Norm: There are a lot of bars in Florida that have signs that say “NO COLORS”. A language stating that you can not wear club patches or shirts. I do not know if it is illegal in Florida but I do know that it is strongly enforced. It does not seem fair. I was at a bar for a Poker Run in Palm Bay, Florida. The bar at the time was named Memory Lane. There was a sign that said “NO COLORS ALLOWED” There is a Christian, non drinking club that was asked to take their vestd off or leave. We also have a Military Vets Bike Club and when they ride they must wear their colors, as does their wife if she is riding with her husband and they also got onto them. Now the place has new owners nd changed the name to “WET SPOT” and the sign was not there when we did the TOYS FOR TOTS RUN at Christmas. In restaurants it is a health issue requiring a shirt and shoes.

  25. You have done excellent work in passing out the message through biker law blog, keep up the good work! Thanks a lot for this beauty Enjoying article with me. I appreciate it very much!

Leave a reply

The Biker Law Blog is published by California Motorcycle Accident Attorney & Biker Lawyer Norman Gregory Fernandez, Esq.

Our Motorcycle Accident Law Firm, The Law Offices of Norman Gregory Fernandez & Associates, are real bikers helping other bikers. Unlike some other so called "fake" motorcycle accident attorney's who do not ride motorcycles, Norman Gregory Fernandez, Esq. actually rides a motorcycle.

We are experts in dealing with motorcycle accident cases.

We handle motorcycle accident cases, motorcycle passenger injury accidents, and other personal injury cases all over the State of California. We are real bikers and motorcycle riders who represent bikers and motorcycle riders who have suffered injuries due to motorcycle accidents and crashes. We handle Motorcycle Accidents, Motorcycle Passenger Accidents, Dangerous Conditions on public roads which cause motorcycle accidents, defective motorcycle cases, Cruiser Motorcycle Accidents, biker rights, criminal law, Car Accidents, Uninsured Motorist Claims, Wrongful Death, Torts, Cager and/or Car negligence, personal injury and Other Injury Cases. We have locations in Southern California and Northern California. We handle personal injury, and motorcycle accident cases in all over California including: Southern California, Central California, and Northern California.

If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident or any other motor vehicle accident, you may call us 7 days a week, 24 hours a day at 800-816-1529 x. 1, or submit your case online here.