Suppose that business A contracts business B to perform some work for it on a regular basis. This work is performed for the customers of business A at their request. For concreteness, business A might be a hotel and business B might be a laundry service.

Business A believes that business B is charging them different prices based on the gender of the person requesting the service, and they charge these prices to the customer and pay business B accordingly. For instance, for the concrete example mentioned previously, they might charge more for women's shirts to be cleaned than for men's shirts, independent of their size or material.

Under the law of the USA, is there any criminal or civil liability for gender discrimination on the part or A, B, or both? Does this liability depend on whether business A is correct about the policies of business B? Further, does it depend on whether anyone has ever actually completed such a transaction with business A?

  • 2
    Cleaning a woman's shirt and a man's shirt is different due to the material types commonly employed - women's shirts tend to be from thinner fabric and are more easily damaged. As such, the time investments are vastly different. You compare apples with oranges.
    – Trish
    Oct 13, 2023 at 21:08
  • @Trish - That's why I explicitly wrote that the discrimination would be applied "independent of their size or material." And the question does not rely on the specific example, anyway.
    – Obie 2.0
    Oct 13, 2023 at 21:43
  • @Trish - Without getting into the weeds of the specific example, the contractor element is relevant for that particular example from a practical perspective because company A, lacking knowledge of laundry services, will not know whether a woman is handing them a cheap, easily cleaned $5 T-shirt or a man is handing them $1000 artisan silk shirt that requires specialized treatment and care. They'll just charge the woman more, because company B said "women's shirts" and "men's shirts."
    – Obie 2.0
    Oct 13, 2023 at 21:53
  • Is the price difference reflected to the end client in any ways? Oct 13, 2023 at 21:54
  • @NicolasFormichella - Right, the idea is that the end client will be charged more if they are female (whether or not the intermediary company A really is correct about business B's discriminatory pricing).
    – Obie 2.0
    Oct 13, 2023 at 21:55

1 Answer 1


Federally none :

The Equal protection clause of the 14th amendment doesn't apply to private businesses and the discrimination clause of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 - Title II doesn't include sex as a protected category :

42 U.S.C. §2000a (a) All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.

The only gender discrimination statutes are to be found for employment in Title VII of the 1964 CRA

There was an attempt to outlaw it federally, but it died in the last congress

This is then delegated to the states to legislate on it :

California voted SB-899 into law adding :

(2) No business establishment of any kind whatsoever may discriminate, with respect to the price charged for goods of a substantially similar or like kind, against a person because of the person’s gender.

to California's civil code, outlawing such price discrimination

The remedies are stated in CA Civ Code 52

(a) Whoever denies, aids or incites a denial, or makes any discrimination or distinction contrary to Section 51, 51.5, or 51.6, is liable for each and every offense for the actual damages, and any amount that may be determined by a jury, or a court sitting without a jury, up to a maximum of three times the amount of actual damage but in no case less than four thousand dollars ($4,000), and any attorney's fees that may be determined by the court in addition thereto, suffered by any person denied the rights provided in Section 51, 51.5, or 51.6.

Back in 2020, the New York state legislature passed General Business Law §391-u, banning the practice, nevertheless allowing narrow exceptions :

  1. No person, firm, partnership, company, corporation or business shall charge a price for any services that are substantially similar if such services are priced differently based upon the gender of the individuals for whom the services are performed, offered, or marketed.

  2. Nothing in this section prohibits price differences in goods or services based specifically upon the following:

(a) the amount of time it took to manufacture such goods or provide such services;

(b) the difficulty in manufacturing such goods or offering such services;

(c) the cost incurred in manufacturing such goods or offering such services;

(d) the labor used in manufacturing such goods or providing such services;

(e) the materials used in manufacturing such goods or providing such services; or

(f) any other gender-neutral reason for having increased the cost of such goods or services.

The remedies are an application by the NY AJ to a New York state court, even if nobody got impacted by the discrimination

without requiring proof that any person has, in fact, been injured or damaged

For a max penalty of US$250 on the first offense and US$500 on subsequent offenses

Whenever the court shall determine that a violation of this section has occurred, the court may impose a civil penalty not to exceed two hundred fifty dollars for a first violation, and a civil penalty not to exceed five hundred dollars for each subsequent violation

Miami-Dade County, FL is another jurisdiction outlawing the practice, having issued the gendered price discrimination ordinance back in May, 1997 :

No seller of a good or service shall charge a customer a different price for a good or service based solely on the customer's gender or the gender of the beneficiary of the good or service.

a) Any person who suffers a loss as result of a violation of any provision of this article may, in addition to any other available remedy, recover compensatory damages, attorney's fees and court costs from the person committing the violation.

(b) Any person who proves the violation of any provision of this article occurred willfully or in bad faith shall recover from the person committing the violation as compensatory damages threefold the actual damages sustained or two hundred dollars ($200.00), whichever is greater, in addition to any other recovery available under law or this article.

  • OK. For the states that have such laws, how does this interact with the contractor situation?
    – Obie 2.0
    Oct 13, 2023 at 21:47
  • I would assume, without any proof, the final customer would have standing, the contracting business would have none since they aren't discriminated against Oct 15, 2023 at 11:43

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