On September 30, 2021, Equality Florida, Impact Fund, and NCLR filed an amicus brief on behalf of a coalition of civil rights groups and nonprofit organizations urging a Florida appellate court to affirm a ruling upholding the validity of Orange County’s Human Rights Ordinance (HRO). The case is O C Food & Beverage, LLC v. Orange County.
Anita Yanes and Brittney Smith brought a sex discrimination lawsuit alleging they were denied entrance to Rachel’s Orlando, a club and restaurant in Orange County, Florida. The lawsuit alleges that Rachel’s violates Orange County’s HRO by requiring women to be accompanied by a male companion.
The case is on appeal for the second time. The trial court initially dismissed the case in 2019, accepting the club’s argument that the Florida Civil Rights Act preempts and prohibits local governments from enacting HROs to protect their communities from discrimination. In 2020, the Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court on technical grounds, as Orange County had not been joined as a defendant.
In 2021, with Orange County now involved in the case as a party, the trial court ruled that Orange County’s HRO was not preempted by the Florida Civil Rights Act. The club appealed.
Equality Florida, Impact Fund, and NCLR filed an amicus brief in each appeal. The amicus brief in the pending appeal, joined by ADL, ACLU of Florida, Freedom for All Americans, Lambda Legal, League of Women Voters of Florida, Legal Aid at Work, and Zebra Coalition, describes the ongoing need to address discrimination in Florida, the critical protections provided by local human rights ordinances, and the well-established authority of local governments to prohibit discrimination in their communities.
Amici are represented by NCLR, the Impact Fund, and local counsel Cohen, Milstein, Sellers & Toll PLLC.