Can A Business Refuse Service To Customers? A Comprehensive Guide

by Corey Philip //  October 28, 2021

Whether it is a business or a customer, both parties need to know the right of refusal. Many customers wonder that can a business refuse service. Of course, the answer is more complicated than a simple yes and now as there are rights and laws that both parties have and should follow.

Local, federal, and state limit the right of businesses to refuse services. However, many times businesses can legally refuse service. Here is everything you need to know about it.

The Law Of Service Refusal

The Federal Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. It states that no business, whether it is public or private, can discriminate against customers based on religion, race, national origin, or color. On the other hand, The Americans with Disabilities Act protects disabled customers from the refusal of service. However, federal law does allow businesses to refuse service to customers based on their sexual orientation.

Of course, many communities in America have statutes to prohibit a business' refusal of a customer based on gender identity or sexual preference. That is why businesses need to fully understand the law before they discriminate. Customers should know these laws so they can protect themselves from unlawful discrimination.

Reasons Why a Business can Refuse Service to Customers

Can a business refuse service to customers? Yes, it can, and here are the most common reasons why that happens frequently:

1. Breaking Lawful Business Rules

The customer is not always right, and businesses need protection too. If a business has created rules, customers need to follow them. That is because businesses have the freedom to enforce any lawful policy or rule.

For example, if the business has stated that smoking is not allowed inside the premises and a customer starts smoking, they can refuse the right to service. In the same way, if pets are not allowed, and you bring a pet, you will not get the service. So, customers need to follow these business rules.

2. Customers being Disruptive or Causing Scenes

Can a business refuse service to rude customers? Yes, it can, especially if the customer is causing a scene on the premises or disrupting other customers with their actions. In that case, a customer can be told to leave the premises as they will not be served.

So, customers fighting, causing scenes, being rude and rowdy do not have to be served by the business. After all, no one should take the rudeness or rowdy behavior on their business premises from other people. If businesses served such people, there would be chaos.

3. Not Meeting the Business Dress Code

Yes, businesses can refuse the right of service to customers if they don't meet the required dress code of the business. We are sure you might have seen some signs on a business saying, "No shoes, no shirt, no service." The sign is very common, and customers have to follow these rules.

If a customer fails to follow this rule set out by the business, they can refuse the service to customers. The dress code is there for the health and safety of the customers. That is why if you don’t follow the rule, you will be denied service.

4. Any Customer Putting the Owner or Staff in Danger

The staff, other customers, and the owners need to feel safe in their establishment. After all, the business opened because of hard work, time, and effort. If a customer threatens the owner or staff or makes anyone feel as if they are in danger, businesses can refuse to serve them.

That is because if people feel they are in danger, they will not visit the premises again, and it will hurt the business. To protect businesses from such behavior, they have a right to refuse service to ensure the safety of employees and other customers.

5. Requesting for a Service after Hours

Can a business refuse service after they have closed? Yes, they can because no business is required to open and serve customers once its timings have ended. Customers need to comply with the business hours, and they will only be served when the business is legally open.

On the other hand, a business can refuse service if a customer does not comply with these hours. The refusal is lawful in such a case, and the customers are not allowed to force businesses to open once their hours have ended.

6. Putting the Business Over the Capacity

Each business establishment has a maximum capacity of people it can fit inside. Overcapacity is a big problem, and it can put the customers there and the establishment in danger. That is why a business can refuse service to customers if they put the business over the limit of people they have inside the establishment.

So, if the premise is full, a customer will not be allowed to enter. In such a case, the refusal is lawful, and the customers can go somewhere else.

Ingersoll V. Arlene’s Flowers: A Classic Case of Business Refusal

In 2013, Arlene's Flowers refused to serve flowers for a gay couple and their wedding because it went against her religious beliefs. The couple sued the florist, and the case went to the State Supreme court. Many people from the LGBTQ community and otherwise came to hear this case.

The trial court imposed a fine of $1,000 and a legal fee of $1. The court found that the refusal of service violated laws and was not right. The case gained a lot of traction, and many people gathered to hear the final decision.

Final Words

So, can a business refuse service to customers? Yes, it can, but it is only lawful under certain circumstances and conditions. Besides that, the refusal of service would be unlawful, and the customer can sue the business.

Many businesses have refused services to people for many reasons. Of course, not everyone gains as much traction as Arlene’s Flowers. That is why it is crucial to know your rights.

About the author

Corey Philip

Corey Philip is a small business owner / investor with a focus on home service businesses.

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