Banks Are Not “Places of Public Accommodation” Within The Meaning of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Court Holds

In Akyar v. TD Bank US Holding Company, 18-CV-379, 2018 WL 4356734 (S.D.N.Y. 2018), the court (inter alia) dismissed plaintiff’s public accommodation discrimination claim under Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This decision turns on what venues qualify as “places of public accommodation” within the meaning of the statute.

In sum, plaintiff alleged that defendant TD Bank unlawfully discriminated against him in violation of Title II by “terminat[ing] Plaintiff’s accounts because he is a Turk with ethnic affiliations related to the Gulenist movement.”

The court summarized the law:

Under Title II, “[a]ll 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 … without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000a(a). A plaintiff bringing a claim under Title II must allege facts showing (1) that he was deprived of equal use and enjoyment of a place of public accommodation and (2) facts which demonstrate discriminatory intent. Coward, 665 F. Supp. 2d at 307. To survive dismissal, a plaintiff must allege that he is a member of a protected class and must plead sufficient factual content to allow the court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant was motivated by discriminatory intent.

The court held that plaintiff did not plausibly allege either element. As to the first element, the court explained that

a place of “public accommodation” is an establishment either affecting interstate commerce or supported by state action that falls into one of the following categories: “(1) a lodging for transient guests located within a building with more than five rooms for rent; (2) a facility principally engaged in selling food for consumption on the premises, including such facilities located within retail establishments and gasoline stations; (3) any place of exhibition or entertainment; (4) any establishment located within an establishment falling into one of the first three categories, and which holds itself out as serving patrons of that establishment; or (5) any establishment that contains a covered establishment, and which holds itself out as serving patrons of that covered establishment.” Bishop v. Henry Modell & Co., No. 08 Civ. 7541(NRB), 2009 WL 3762119, at *12 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 10, 2009) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 2000a(b)). Because Congress specified the establishments that constitute places of public accommodation under § 2000a, courts in this circuit apply the statute to only those covered establishments. Renxiong Huang, 2018 WL 3579103, at *3. In other words, courts have held that the language of the statute does not suggest that the listed establishments in the statute were meant to serve as mere examples of public accommodations.

In rejecting plaintiff’s claim that TD Bank qualifies as a public accommodation within the meaning of Title II, the court noted that “the text of § 2000a does not explicitly include banks, see 42 U.S.C. § 2000a(b), and courts have expressly concluded that banks are not places of public accommodation within the meaning of the provision.”