Avis Discrimination Lawsuit: Customer Sues Over Alleged Gay Discount

Avis shuttle bus

San Diego, CA — A woman who sued the Avis car rental company because she didn’t get the Avis discount available to members of two gay groups will apparently get her day in court.

In legal papers, Lynn Evenchik claims she was in effect overcharged based on the Avis alleged price discrimination policy, according to a report by the San Diego ABC News outlet.

She paid about $300 for a week-long rental, but did not receive the group discount, in the neighborhood of 20 percent, that members of two gay organizations could get from Avis, because Avis “did not perceive her to be a lesbian or gay customer or because Avis did not perceive her to be associated with favored lesbian or gay customer groups.” She sued Avis in U.S. District Court in San Diego, and a federal judge recently denied Avis’ effort to get the case dismissed in its early stages. The ruling also opens the door to class-action lawsuits, i.e., similar claims by other Avis customers.

In her suit, Evenchick claimed that Avis violated California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act and the state’s Business and Professions Code which prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and unfair business practices, respectively.

Among other things, Avis countered that the customer could have asked for discounts through other affiliations such as the Hilton Honors member discount or through Best Buy rewards. Avis also asserted that she could have joined the two gay groups even if she was straight because those organizations are open to everyone.

In allowing the case to go forward, the judge wrote in his opinion, in part, that …

“There is no evidence that Avis offered Plaintiff any discount equal to the rental discount given members of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association or the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce … And although Avis repeats it often as fact, there is no evidence that membership in either International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association or the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce was open to Plaintiff when she rented her car.”

Presumably the Avis customer filed the case in federal rather than state court because of “diversity” jurisdiction. In other words, the plaintiff is from Arizona, the incident took place in California, and Avis maintains it corporate offices in New Jersey.

This interim ruling by the judge doesn’t decide the lawsuit on the merits; it only means that the case continues to move through the system. If the case gets to trial (and not settled or dropped along the way), it will be up to the customer to provide proof in support of her allegations.

Car rental companies have all kinds of discounts based on holding certain credit cards, membership in the AAA or many other organizations, and so forth, although none of these other promotions or affiliations directly involve sexual orientation. Do you think this is a frivolous lawsuit or does the customer have a legitimate claim of discrimination, which some would refer to as reverse discrimination?

[Image credit: Bidgee]