What are places of public accommodation?
A “place of public accommodation” is “any school, restaurant, store, establishment or other facility at which services, facilities, goods, privileges, advantages, benefits or accommodations are offered to the general public. This also includes most hospitals, professional offices (such as doctors, dentists, lawyers and accountants), retail stores, inns, hotels and schools. In addition to privately owned places of public accommodation, a governmental entity, like a municipality or the State of Vermont, is considered a “public accommodation” if it owns, leases or operates a place that offers any goods, services, benefits, etc. to the general public, including jails and prisons.
Any item or service that is offered by a place of public accommodation cannot be refused, denied or withheld from you on the basis of your sex, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical or mental disability or because you are a nursing mother.
IMPORTANT: The VHRC is currently NOT accepting complaints in public accommodations at this time. Based on current caseloads and staff availability, we expect to lift this restriction in September 2021. See alternative ways to file a complaint down below.
If your allegations do not relate to housing, consider filing a complaint through one of the agencies listed below:
- Office of the Attorney General - Civil Rights Unit (Vermont)
- Accepts complaints alleging discrimination in non-government employment.
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
- Accepts complaints alleging discrimination in employment.
- U.S. Department of Justice - Civil Rights Division
- Accepts complaints alleging civil rights violations and unlawful discrimination.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Office for Civil Rights
- Accepts complaints alleging discrimination by healthcare providers, including state and local governments, hospitals, pharmacies, and more.
- U.S. Department of Education - Office for Civil Rights
- Accepts complaints alleging discrimination by educational institutions (all public schools and most public and private colleges and universities).
If you need legal assistance, please note that the VHRC is a neutral investigatory agency and is unable to represent parties or provide legal advice. You do not need the VHRC to make a determination on your case in order to file in court. If you believe that your case is meritorious, you should seek the advice of an attorney immediately. Please note that your right to file a lawsuit may be time-barred and you should not wait if you wish to pursue litigation.
If you need an attorney and cannot find one, please contact the Vermont Bar Association.