Should Your 5 Year Old Sue?

Should Your 5 Year Old Sue?

Someone sent me a link to this editorial the other day. It was titled Brat Ban, which apparently is a movement to ban children from restaurants and other places where adults would want peace and quiet. A restaurant in Pennsylvania actually banned children younger than six, although I’m not sure if they made people prove it. The editorial lists other examples too – movie theaters that have a separate adults-only screening of a movie, grocery stores with adults-only shopping hours, and the list goes on.

Parents are outraged. Peace-seeking patrons feel it’s only fair. The editorial talks about a website that asked its readers to weigh in on the Pennsylvania restaurant’s ban, as well as the idea in general, and the site got more than 20,000 comments in four days. The people commenting were from both sides of the debate, with some adding their own wish lists of child-free places, such as airplanes (good luck with that one).

What does this have to do with the law? The person who sent me this link asked: Isn’t this age discrimination? The answer – fortunately or unfortunately – is no.

Age discrimination discriminates. It’s only illegal to discriminate against someone based on age if they are 40 years old or older. If you are 20 and your boss tells you that you are too young for that promotion, thems the breaks.  If you are 30 and your boss fires you because you are too old (think pole dancing), you’re out of luck legally.

A few years ago, a Chicago restaurant was in the news for hanging a sign on the door saying that kids must behave, or something like that. There was a big uproar. Parents were offended and posted stories of being ignored and treated poorly while there with their children. The law does not guarantee that kids get equal access to restaurants, theaters or stores. They can be banned. They can be treated differently. Age discrimination simply doesn’t apply.

So, no, your 5-year-old kid can’t sue because they are banned from a restaurant. But it’s a fascinating debate, because both sides are so passionate (as evidenced by the 20,000 comments on that website). Personally, I had no idea so many places banned kids. I’m not completely against it – I like to go places without my kids sometimes – but I also don’t expect it to be a national trend.  And it’s not like it doesn’t already exist on some cruise ships, vacation spots, bars, etc.

On another note, this reminded me of a great joke by Anthony Jeselnik:  I always wanted Kate Plus 8 to end. But not like this. Not without a fire. 

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