Public Accommodations: Discriminatory Results vs. Intent

Public Accommodations: Discriminatory Results vs. Intent

Under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), RCW 49.60, does one need to establish discriminatory results or discriminatory intent when pursing a claim of public accommodations discrimination? Here's my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).



The focus of the "liability inquiry [is] on whether actions resulted in discrimination, not whether the proprietor of a place of public accommodation intended to discriminate." See Floeting v. Group Health Cooperative, 192 Wn.2d 848, 853 (Wash. 2019) (emphasis added). This is based upon the following broad standard:

[The WLAD] … prohibits 'any person or the person's agent or employee [from committing] an act which directly or indirectly results in any distinction, restriction, or discrimination' based on a person's membership in a protected class. 

Floeting, 192 Wn.2d at 853 (referencing RCW 49.60.215) (emphasis and second alteration in original).


The above "provision imposes direct liability on employers for the discriminatory conduct of their agents and employees." Id., 192 Wn.2d at 856. According to the Floeting Court: "We can say it no better than the Court of Appeals:

It is an unfair practice for 'any person or the person's agent or employee' to commit a forbidden act. RCW 49.60.215(1). This language attributes responsibility for the agent's or employee's discriminatory act to the 'person' (employer) without mention of the doctrines of vicarious liability or respondeat superior. In this way, the legislature chose to fight discrimination in public accommodations by making employers directly responsible for their agents' and employees' conduct.

Floeting, 192 Wn.2d at 856 (citing Floeting v. Grp. Health Coop., 200 Wn.App. 758, 770, 403 P.3d 559 (2017)) (hyperlink added).


If you would like to learn more, then consider contacting an experienced Washington State Employment Discrimination Attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case. Please note: the information contained in this article is not offered as legal advice and will not form an attorney-client relationship with either this author or Williams Law Group; please see our DISCLAIMER.


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