The Pellucid Perspective - August 2013 - (Page 2)

GOLF INDUSTRY LITIGATION Say good-bye to Ladies’ Day? Spokane case has serious ramifications for private clubs By Jim Dunlap A gender discrimination lawsuit has resulted in one of Spokane, Washington’s leading private country clubs filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and could have even more painful consequences if the club loses again on appeal. The case, which primarily hinges on whether Spokane Country Club should be considered a private club or a “public accommodation” under Washington state law, could herald the disappearance of “Men’s Invitational,” “Ladies Day” or other gender-exclusive events or club offerings at private clubs in states with similar laws. In March of this year, a Spokane jury ruled for the plaintiffs, pending appeal, temporarily resolving a five-year long suit filed by four female Spokane CC members alleging various types of discriminatory practices by the club. Two months later, not so coincidentally the day before the case judge was to rule on plaintiffs’ lawyer Mary Schultz’s petition for payment of over $1.1 million in attorney fees by the club, Spokane CC filed for Chapter 11 protection, including a stay of the attorney fees and more than $500,000 in damages awarded to the four plaintiffs. While the club’s attorney, Matt Anderson of the Spokane-based Winston & Cashatt law firm, said there are a couple of outstanding questions for the trial judge to resolve, it is likely that the club’s appeal will be delayed until the bankruptcy court rules on the club’s reorganization plan under the Chapter 11 filing. The plaintiffs, three female Spokane CC individual members and one woman who inherited her membership upon the death of her father, cited a number of club policies and practices which they deemed to be discriminatory, and which they said rendered their memberships less valuable than those of male members who paid the same initiation fees and monthly dues. The primary objections were to gender-based member tournaments, and to access to the course that was based on gender, such as “Ladies Days” on Tuesday and Thursday and “Men’s Day” on Wednesday or Saturday prime time, or men’s tournaments that were longer, had more substantial prize awards and more elaborate ancillary social events than the ladies-only events. The initial filing also cited the designation of a club facility as the “Men’s Grille,” but Anderson said that had never been the official designation of the club’s grille room, and cited an instance several years ago when a couple of male club members had attempted to bar female members, only to be told by the club manager that the women had every right to be there. As mentioned earlier, the Spokane trial hinged in large part on whether Spokane Country Club qualifies under state law as a truly private club, which would typically be exempt from anti-discrimination laws, or is deemed to be a “public accommodation,” which is definitely subject to those statutes. The jury decided that the club is a public accommodation. Their decision, according to Schultz, was based in part on the fact that the club runs a golf equipment shop on its property that is open to the public, the club rents out the course for outings and the facilities for weddings and other social events to non-members, and that club membership does not require a member sponsor or nomination and is open to anyone who can pay the initiation fee and monthly dues. The club, which currently offers 370 membership “shares,” has had as many as 30 full female members at one point. The “public accommodation” determination figures to be a key issue in the club’s forthcoming appeal, and an equally major consideration in any similar cases which may arise in other U.S. jurisdictions. The over-arching issue is whether any form of gender discrimination is permissable within club operations, other than obvious and legitimate exceptions like separate bathrooms or locker rooms. In the Spokane case, the plaintiffs have argued that in the case of tournaments, the major events should be “members tournaments,” rather than designating them as solely for men or women. Anderson, the club’s attorney, responded that male members have historically paid significantly more to participate in the men’s events, which the female members were reluctant to do, and were thus entitled to the larger prizes and more lavish social events accompanying the men-only tournaments. There will obviously be more legal maneuvering in the Spokane case, in both the bankruptcy court and the state’s appellate court, but the final outcomes would seem to have very significant ramifications for not only private golf country clubs but private clubs in general. For clubs whose activity schedules include “Ladies Days” or “Men’s Days” or gender-based events, there may be some hasty rewriting of the club bylaws, lest they find themselves facing a very expensive day in court. Asked what the outcome might be if Spokane Country Club should lose its appeal, attorney Anderson said, “There will be some changes, that’s for sure. This has really turned the club on n its head.” The primary objections were to gender-based member tournaments, and to access to the course that was based on gender, such as “Ladies Days” on Tuesday and Thursday and “Men’s Day” on Wednesday... 2 The Pellucid PersPecTive August 2013

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Pellucid Perspective - August 2013

The Pellucid Perspective - August 2013
Say good-bye to Ladies Day?
2013 mid-year review: Anyone get the license place of that truck?
The true cost of barter
Snowboarding is to skiing as ??? is to golf
New private club buyer/investor emerges
Skybrook Golf Club, Charlotte Golf Links owe millions, placed in receivership
July golf weather impact: Finally, a weather-favorable month vs. ’12
Finding golfers no circus act in Sarasota
Random shots

The Pellucid Perspective - August 2013