Commission on Human Rights
Commission approves settlement in case alleging whites only policy by Franklin, KY American Legion post
LOUISVILLE – The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights approved a conciliation agreement today in a case brought by an African American man who alleged the American Legion Post 62 in Franklin, Ky., refused him entry under a whites-only policy.
The human rights commission held an administrative hearing on the matter in Franklin on June 11 and 12 of this year, but the parties later agreed to settle the case rather than pursue litigation. Under the conciliation agreement, the post agreed to pay complainant Al Shadi $6,500.
The complaint by Shadi and then Commissioner Priscilla Johnson against the American Legion Post 62 alleged discrimination based on race in the jurisdictions of both employment and public accommodations–violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Kentucky Civil Rights Act (344.040 and 344.120, respectively) and the Kentucky Revenue Code (141.010).
Shadi, an employee of Rent-A-Center, alleged he went to the post to service a television but a post representative would not allow him inside. At the hearing, Shadi’s white coworker testified a white representative of the American Legion facility told the coworker Shadi would not be able to enter because the American Legion Post 62 allowed only white people. The coworker testified that another white man on the premises overheard the exchange and said, “It’s their rules.”
Along with Shadi’s complaint, Commissioner Johnson filed a commissioner-initiated complaint arising from the same incident. The plaintiffs alleged the post’s whites-only policy constituted unlawful interference with Shadi’s employment with Rent-A-Center. They alleged the American Legion post is a place of public accommodations and therefore prohibited from enforcing a whites-only policy.
The post argued it is a private club and not subject to civil rights laws applicable to public accommodations. However, a 2005 decision by the Kentucky Supreme Court held the commission could investigate discriminatory practices of private clubs based on the tax code.
The decision in the case of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights v. Pendennis Club Inc. et al said the revenue code provisions are applicable to private clubs and the state can use the code as an enforcement mechanism by denying tax deductions to members regarding their clubs that discriminate because of race, color, religion, national origin or sex.
John J. Johnson, who is executive director of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights and a native of Franklin, commended Shadi for filing the action against the American Legion Post 62.
“This case is important to the commonwealth because it helps ensure that veterans of the Armed Forces can return to their hometowns and find veterans’ organizations that are open to them and that are free from discrimination,” Johnson said.
Under the conciliation agreement, the American Legion Post 62 agreed to pay Shadi $6,500 and to undergo civil rights compliance training as well as monitoring for compliance by the commission for three years.
Under the agreement, the American Legion denied any violation of the law. The conciliation agreement constitutes the compromise of disputed claims and does not constitute an admission by the post of any violation of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act.