Entertainment and hospitality: What you need to know
The Alberta Human Rights Act protects members of the public against discrimination when they use entertainment and hospitality services. The AHR Act does not protect against poor treatment or bad service, unless it flows from a protected ground of discrimination such as race or physical disability. Age is not a protected ground in the area of goods, services, accommodation or facilities. You can read more about age as a protected ground and about all protected areas and grounds. Also see the Alberta Human Rights Commission interpretive bulletin Human rights in the hospitality industry.
Examples of discrimination covered by the AHR Act:
- denial of service or access to facilities for people with mobility disabilities
- lack of signage for people with hearing impairments
- denial of service or access to facilities for guide dogs and other service animals for people with physical or mental disabilities
- refusal to rent short-term accommodation to customers based on their race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, or disability
- requiring customers to pay for restaurant meals in advance, based on their race or ancestry
- denial of entrance to nightclubs based on a customer's race, colour or place of origin
Examples of issues not covered by the AHR Act:
- denial of service to individuals who are intoxicated and disorderly
- denial of service to individuals who are abusive to staff or have been so in the past
- denial of service to individuals who refuse to pay or have failed to pay in the past
- denial of service to individuals who are unable or unwilling to provide a damage deposit that is required of all customers
- denial of service to individuals on the basis of age
- denial of service to individuals who are not members of a private club (see Who can make a complaint)
Entertainment and hospitality providers are responsible for ensuring that their services do not discriminate against members of the public based on any of the protected grounds. To meet this obligation, entertainment and hospitality providers need to review their operations regularly to identify and eliminate any potentially discriminatory aspects of their service. For example, a restaurant operator could review its seating plan to ensure that there are tables accessible to customers in wheelchairs.
If a hospitality or entertainment provider has a requirement that would discriminate against people based on a protected ground like religious beliefs or physical disability, it has a duty to accommodate affected individuals to the point of undue hardship. Accommodation means making changes to any rules, standards, policies or physical environments to ensure that they don't have a negative effect on anyone based on any protected ground. For example, a hotel that does not have any smoke-free rooms left for a guest with asthma discriminates against this guest based on physical disability. The hotel operator could accommodate this customer by arranging for the guest to stay at a hotel nearby that has a smoke-free room available.
Individuals who require accommodation based on a protected ground have a responsibility to inform the hospitality or entertainment provider of their needs. Doing so gives the service provider the opportunity to make any changes necessary to accommodate the individual making the request, as well as anyone else with the same or similar needs. For more information about the duty to accommodate, see the Commission interpretive bulletin Duty to accommodate.
In some circumstances, discrimination may be reasonable and justifiable. An entertainment or hospitality service provider may refuse to provide services to some people based on one or more protected characteristics if providing the service would be an undue hardship. For example, a bar owner might refuse service to intoxicated customers who have an alcohol-related disability to ensure a safe environment for employees and customers, to protect its property from damage, or to meet its obligations under the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Act.
For more information, see Human rights in the hospitality industry.
Revised: February 1, 2010
The Alberta Human Rights Commission is an independent commission of the Government of Alberta.
Due to confidentiality concerns, the Commission cannot reply to complaints of discrimination by email. Please contact the Commission by phone or regular mail if you have a specific complaint.
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