WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today announced the filing and settlement of a lawsuit against the Pasco County Fair Association Inc. for allegedly discriminating against Hispanic patrons in the rental of a reception hall on its fairgrounds in Dade City, Fla. The department’s complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida in Tampa and the settlement is memorialized in a consent decree that must still be approved by the court.
The complaint alleges that the Pasco County Fair Association violated Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by engaging in a pattern or practice of discrimination against persons of Hispanic descent by charging and quoting Hispanic customers and prospective customers higher deposit fees for renting the Dan Cannon Auditorium, a reception hall owned and operated by the fair association and used for weddings, anniversaries and other events.
"Public gathering places such as reception halls should be open to all persons regardless of their ethnic backgrounds, and our nation’s laws make clear that discrimination of this sort is unacceptable," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "This settlement sends the important message that the Justice Department and the Civil Rights Division are committed to eradicating illegal discrimination in public accommodations."
"People use public places like this to celebrate the most joyous and important events of their lives," said U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida A. Brian Albritton. "The U.S. Attorney’s Office will remain vigilant to ensure access to such places without illegal discrimination."
The consent decree prohibits the fair association from discriminating on the basis of national origin in the provision of goods, services and facilities at the fairgrounds and the Dan Cannon hall. The decree also requires training of the association’s board members and employees, the adoption of nondiscrimination policies and procedures, the posting of nondiscrimination policies in Spanish and English, the adoption of complaint resolution procedures, the retention of an outside contractor to test the association’s compliance with Title II, and monitoring by the government.
The lawsuit arose after the Greater Tampa Chapter of the ACLU Foundation of Florida alerted the Civil Rights Division that the fair association was allegedly charging Hispanics higher deposits to rent Dan Cannon Auditorium. The government conducted an independent investigation, including using testers – individuals who pose as renters to gather information about possible discriminatory practices – who uncovered evidence of possible discrimination.
Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin in places of public accommodation, such as restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, nightclubs, stadiums and other places of exhibition or entertainment. Under Title II, the Civil Rights Division can obtain injunctive relief that changes policies and practices to remedy customer discrimination. Title II does not include a provision for monetary damages for individuals who are victims of discrimination.
The continued enforcement of Title II is a priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt.