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Saturday, February 16, 2013 

NYC sues Satmar-owned stores for posting "modesty guidelines"

The NY municipality is suing some stores in the Satmar community in Williamsburg for doing what basically amounts to discrimination:
NEW YORK – Does a requirement that customers at Satmar-run stores in Brooklyn dress modestly run afoul of human rights law? That is the question at issue in the upcoming trial of seven businesses being sued by New York City’s Commission on Human Rights for having signs in their storefronts stating, “No shorts, no barefoot, no sleeveless, no low cut neckline allowed in this store.”

The businesses are all located along a two-block stretch of Lee Avenue, Williamsburg’s main Hasidic shopping street, which bustles with cars and pedestrian shoppers during the week but on Shabbos becomes silent but for the men wearing prayer shawls hurrying to synagogue along the sidewalks.

“These stores are public accommodations, and they are prohibited from posting any kind of advertisement specifying a preference for one type of customer or another, or expressing discrimination against one type or another,” said Clifford Mulqueen, deputy commissioner and general counsel to the human rights commission.

Public accommodation is a legal term meaning entities like stores, public or private, that are used by the public.

The signs are “pretty specific to women,” Mulqueen said. “It seems pretty clear that it’s geared toward women dressing modestly if they choose to come into the store, and that would be discrimination.”

The virtually identical modesty signs began appearing in Williamsburg store windows in 2011 and 2012, and the human rights commission filed the lawsuits in August 2012. There is a pre-trial meeting at court scheduled on March 12th, Mulqueen said.
They're quite right that many of these signs stem from discrimination based on sex/gender, but the problem is that, if the stores are the private properties of the people running the stores, they can run them as they like, and it's hard to tell if a lawsuit would help even in cases involving discrimination. If anything, the public most definitely shouldn't be supporting store owners who engage in that kind of gender discrimination, and shouldn't bother buying anything there if that's how the Satmar are going to act that way. Store owners with discriminatory positions like that don't deserve our hard earned money.

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