Ridout Barron


Business and commercial law: When can you refuse service?

Private business owners in Alberta can, under certain circumstances, refuse to serve clients. Business and commercial law even allows the companies to bar customers from entry, as long as these measures are not in violation of state and federal human rights or other laws. While many businesses have dress standards by which people without shoes or shirts are not allowed entry, race, ethnicity, religion, age and many other grounds may not form the basis for refusing service or admission.

Business owners might not be aware that they may not bar entry to a service animal of a person with a disability, nor may they levy service surcharges for the animal. However, if the business has a policy in place to charge the animal's owner for any damages it caused, such charges may be assessed. The customer with the service dog must be informed of the existence of such a policy.

Just like any other law, exceptions exist. A man who was refused membership of female-only gym claimed gender discrimination, but the court ruled that the refusal had no adverse effect on his dignity, nor did it cause him any suffering. In another case, a woman accused a barber of gender discrimination after he refused to cut her hair. However, this involved both his and her human rights because the barber's religion prohibited him from touching women other than those in his family. The court ruled for the barber in that case.

Some business owners in Alberta rely on lawyers who deal with business and commercial law to advise them on establishing policies related to imposing restrictions on customers. Legal counsel for company owners who are accused of violating the human rights of clients can be an invaluable asset. After all, business owners also have rights to protect.

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Ridout Barron

802 13th Ave SW
Calgary, AB T2R 0L2
Phone: 587-315-8454
Fax: 403-271-8016
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