Types of Discrimination in Public Places

Learn about the different kinds of discrimination that can happen in public places and how we are protecting your rights.

Businesses open to the public cannot deny people access or treat people differently based on their membership in a protected class.

The Law

The MCAD enforces G.L. c. 151B, c.151C and G.L. c. 272, §§ 92, 98 and 98A.

A place of public accommodation is defined as any place, whether licensed or unlicensed, which is open to and accepts or solicits the patronage of the general public. This includes retail stores, restaurants, malls, and public spaces including agencies, parks, beaches, and roads. Places of public accommodation also include restrooms and other sex-segregated facilities.

Massachusetts civil rights law prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation including:

  • Hotels or other places of lodging
  • Restaurants or bars
  • Theatres, sports stadiums, or other places of entertainment
  • Stores or other retail establishments
  • Service establishments, such as laundromats, gas stations, lawyers or accountants
  • Hospitals, medical and dental offices, and other health care facilities
  • Transportation providers or stations
  • Museums, libraries, or other places of public display
  • Parks, gyms, beaches, or other places of recreation
  • Schools, colleges, and other educational institutions
  • Child care centers, senior citizen centers, and other social service establishments
  • Public streets and highways
  • Public spaces such as court rooms and polling places

This also includes discriminatory printed material, signs, or any distinction or restriction in admission or treatment in public spaces.

Gender Identity

All persons, regardless of gender identity, have the right to full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of any place of public accommodation under law. 

Denial of service, access, benefit, process, or proceeding in a public place cannot be made on the basis of an individual's gender identity. 

 An individual’s gender identity may be demonstrated by any evidence that the gender identity is sincerely held as a part of the person’s core identity. This includes a person's gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior is different from their assigned sex at birth. Gender identity encompasses individuals who are transgender. 

Additional Resources for

Disability and Service Animals

A person with a disability cannot be denied access, services, or be treated differently based on their disability in public places. 

A place of public accommodation cannot refuse entry, service, or practice less favorable treatment based on any blind, deaf, or hearing handicapped, or other physically handicapped person accompanied by a dog guide. Public places must allow those with disabilities to bring their service animals into all areas of the facility where customers are allowed and cannot be denied service on the basis of the service animal’s presence.

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