Avis Class Action Lawsuit

Lynn Evenchik of Pima County, Arizona is suing Avis rental cars for allegedly violating her civil rights by not granting her a discount on her car rental due to her sexual orientation. More specifically, she is challenging the business deal entered into by Avis and the Gay and Lesbian Travel Association and the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Avis entered into deals with the two groups in order to increase its business, since presumably the discounts would create an incentive for members from the two groups to rent cars from the rental agency.

Since Evenchik is not a Lesbian, and therefore was not able to seek a discount, of up to 25%, off of her weekly rental,  she filed a suit seeking an injunction and damages under California's Unruh Civil Rights Act. Under those pretenses, she filed a class action, "on behalf of consumers who have suffered from this illegal and unfair business practice." While granting discounts on car rentals is not exclusive to these two groups, Evenchik claims that their deal had the best potential discounted rates when compared with other business groups. The basis of her claim relies on the fact that the discounted rates are based upon the affiliate renters' sexual orientation.

California Unruh Act

The Unruh Act, passed in 1959, states in relevant part that, "All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal, and no matter what their... sexual orientation [and] are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever." [emphasis added].

Therefore, the decision in the case depends on whether the discount was truly based on the sexual orientation. The problem this suit is likely to encounter, from what I can hypothesize, is that becoming a member of the Gay and Lesbian Travel Associations or Chambers of Commerce does not necessarily depend on one's sexual orientation. Eventhough people may not necessarily take advantage of becoming card carrying members, large organizations such as these, particularly ones with members that regularly encounter discrimination, often make it a point to allow anyone who wishes to join. Thus, if this is the case, then Evenchik's case may not be so straightforward.

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