Attorney General Bonta: Denying Hotel Accommodations Based on Tribal Status Is Unlawful and Discriminatory
Reminds businesses of their legal obligations regarding
nondiscrimination in public accommodations
OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced securing two separate agreements to require Super 8 by Wyndham Yreka (Super 8) and Baymont by Wyndham Yreka (Baymont) to revise their rental policies and comply with nondiscrimination laws. The agreements are the result of an investigation launched by the California Department of Justice (DOJ) last year into allegations of discrimination by the two Siskiyou County hotels against members of the Karuk Tribe based on their tribal affiliation and local residence. As a result of the agreements, the hotels are required to adopt clear nondiscrimination policies subject to DOJ approval, conduct ongoing nondiscrimination training, and issue direct apologies to the affected communities.
“Native Americans have been in California since time immemorial,” said Attorney General Bonta. “They — like all residents of our state — deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Denying someone hotel accommodations based on their tribal status is unlawful and discriminatory. The agreements announced today by my office with Super 8 and Baymont are an important recognition of the fundamental rights of the Karuk Tribe and all tribal members across California. Under state and federal law, businesses are prohibited from discriminating against people based on their protected characteristics. At the California Department of Justice, we will not tolerate violations of people’s basic civil rights and we will take action to ensure our laws are enforced.”
“In this world we live in today, there is no place for discrimination,” said Chairman Russel ‘Buster’ Attebery. “As Chairman of the Karuk Tribe I will demand, by law, that businesses treat Karuk Members with respect and dignity in the same manner as any other human being. Special thanks to California Department of Justice and their Office of Native American Affairs for the investigation that will reflect a change to replace discrimination with mutual respect.”
Under state and federal law, public accommodations — such as shops, restaurants, hotels, and other businesses that are generally open to the public — are prohibited from denying access to services on the basis of an individual’s or group’s protected characteristics. Public accommodations laws work to protect the rights of all Americans, particularly members of disadvantaged groups, from the economic, personal, and social harms caused by discrimination. The federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 specifically prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation on the basis of, among other characteristics, race, color, religion, or national origin; California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act also prohibits discrimination on the basis of ancestry, citizenship, or any arbitrary grounds. Public accommodations laws are a critical part of California’s efforts to ensure that all state residents are treated with dignity and respect. The Attorney General reminds businesses of their legal obligations to ensure nondiscrimination in public accommodations.
As part of the agreements, Super 8 and Baymont have committed to:
Adopting a comprehensive nondiscrimination statement and policy, clearly displaying the statement and policy on their physical premises and websites;
Submitting for DOJ review a policy the clearly outlines nondiscriminatory reasons why an individual may be denied access to hotel accommodations;
Providing training to all employees on the adopted nondiscrimination policy, repeating such training biannually and requiring new employees to take the training within 90 days;
Reporting compliance to DOJ quarterly for a period of two years; and
Issuing formal apologies to the Karuk Tribe.
Attorney General Bonta is committed to protecting the civil rights of people in California and across the country. In August, the Attorney General filed a legal brief before the U.S. Supreme Court in defense of the rights of LGBTQ+ Americans and Colorado’s public accommodations law. He also led a bipartisan coalition of 24 attorneys general urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reject a challenge to longstanding protections guaranteed to Native American children, their families, and tribal communities under the Indian Child Welfare Act. In July, Attorney General Bonta filed an amicus brief pushing back on Alabama’s refusal to draw a fair congressional map that doesn’t result in anti-Black discrimination. In June, he issued guidance to remind local officials across the state of key legal protections under California law meant to uphold the civil rights of people with disabilities. Last year, Attorney General Bonta highlighted a $5 million state investmentaimed at supporting public safety on tribal lands in California.
The agreements announced today are the result of work by DOJ’s Civil Rights Enforcement Section with support from DOJ’s Office of Native American Affairs (ONAA). More information regarding ONAA and DOJ’s efforts to support the rights of tribes in California is available here: https://oag.ca.gov/nativeamerican.