Saturday, May 18, 2013

More Motel Discrimination

We've been closely following the evolving story of GK, the sex worker from the Gold Coast that habitually uses motels to conduct her trade.

In a landmark legal decision earlier this year, it was determined that motel operators across Australia, could find themselves in breach of the anti-discrimination laws that exist in every state if they try to turn away prostitutes.

The decision in GK's favour was based upon the simple premise that sex workers using a motel bed to conduct trade should be treated no differently from other guests (ie sales reps etc) that may conduct business in a motel room by using the telephone or internet.

In (hopefully) the last chapter of this story, the beleaguered operators of the Drovers Rest Motel at Moranbah have finally won their landmark case, overturning last year's tribunal decision.

Although the decision was greatly assisted by a rushed amendment to Queenland's Anti-Discrimination Act, it is pleasing that this supports "business owners' ability to decide about what does or does not occur on their premises."

Although discrimination laws in Australia and New Zealand are based on a similar premise, it would probably be a long-shot if a sex worker plying trade from a motel guest room in this country could successfully claim discrimination after being asked to leave. It would take very good legal representation acting for a "victimised sex worker to squeeze a result from our well established Human Rights Act.

It has to be kept in mind that when hurt feelings, entitlement and legal aid is involved, it's not inconceivable that any "undesirable" motel guest could construct case against a hapless Kiwi motel after enduring the humiliation of being refused entry or being tossed out. It's not unknown for courts and tribunals to interpret laws for the benefit of the individual over businesses.

Moteliers in order to protect their business and the peaceful enjoyment of the majority of their guests are required to turn away trade from time to time. Generally the best way for moteliers to manage this is to set tariff at a reasonable level in order to detract an undesirable element.

Although there are legal remidies that the public can persue for alledged discriminatory practices by accommodaqtion providers, probably the biggest consequence is the exposure from trial by media.

We've posted before about the "outrage" that followed the story in the media about accommodation providers in Myrtle Beach South Carolina, that have a location-based "discriminatory" policy of not accepting locals at their establishments. From an accommodation providers' point of view, we can see a sound logic to this policy.

Probably the most memorable local story of  discrimination based on location was the media frenzy that followed  the hapless Palmerston North motelier that directed his wrath upon all residents of Wainuiomata by announcing a ban upon anyone from the town that attempted to to stay at his motel. While the blanket ban was bizarre, extreme and probably bad for business, we defended the motelier's right to operate his business under this policy.

And we have also more recently posted on the lodge owners in Whangarei that exposed their naive bigotry tendencies by insisting that gay couples sleep twin beds. Clearly these zealots are in the wrong business!

Within the accommodation industry, sometimes it is necessary to discriminate in order to maximise returns and ensure happy returning guests. And by discrimination I don't mean turning business away based on race, religion, marital status, religious beliefs, sexual orientation etc - This type of discrimination is clearly a no-go zone!

However for good reason, some accommodation providers may have a policy of not accepting reservations from guests that: only want one-night over a long weekend, sports groups, wedding parties, school ball attendees, stag parties, working girls, locals etc. And this is acceptable...

Accommodation providers that have legitimate discriminatory guest policies should NEVER communicate these with the public. The public have an antenna for any perceived inequity and are quick to play victim with media that are more than willing to ramp up the angst. They will never understand why they could be denied and will always believe that they have a god-given "entitlement" to your services - They do not!

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