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Men Used a 56-Year-Old Anti-Discrimination Law in a Suit Against Chic CEO

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Chic CEO is a free online platform geared towards female entrepreneurs, which enables them to do things like network or find helpful resources for starting a business. CEO Stephanie Burns regularly secured space for these female entrepreneurs by organizing networking events and mixers for women. That all came to an end for Burns when two men, Allen Candelore and Rich Allison, tried to enter one of the female-focused events.

In a video posted to YouTube, Burns said, “These men came uninvited and the venue was over capacity,” so she turned them away. The next thing she knew, she was hit with a lawsuit from the two men, claiming they were being discriminated against based on their gender. They were represented by Alfred G. Rava, who is notorious for carrying out lawsuits against organizations who have any kind of event geared towards women. In fact, he was involved in a class-action lawsuit against the Oakland Athletics Baseball organization for gender discrimination over their Mother’s Day promotional event wherein they gave free breast cancer awareness hats to women.

How much did that lawsuit end up costing them? $510,000.

It’s not clear how much the out-of-court settlement cost Chic CEO, but they chose that over an expensive legal battle.

But how does Rava win these (clearly ridiculous) cases? He cites the Unruh Civil Rights Act, a California anti-discrimination law from 1959. He seems to target events that are geared towards women, or events in which women are apparently preferred over men. Rava—as well as National Coalition for Men president Harry Crouch, and the two plaintiffs in the Chic CEO case Candelore and Allison—have been leaning on the Unruh Act in lawsuits for quite some time now.

Frankly, the lawsuits are ridiculous. But more than that (so much more than that), there’s a special kind of insult in taking an anti-discrimination law and twisting it to “protect” those least in need of protection.

The threat of a lawsuit is usually enough to shut a company down, even if the company stands a good chance of winning in court, simply for one reason: it costs less to settle than it does to fight in court. With the knowledge of a likely easy settlement, plus precedent on their side, how messed up is it that this is a weapon that can be used to stamp out organized attempts at improving representation before it even begins?

According to Yahoo! News, Rava “doesn’t see the value in women-focused events, even if they have no discriminatory intent. He calls the desire to hold them ‘strange and sad.'” Rava denies that this is true and also denies the veracity of an email Yahoo! News claims to have received from him in the same article.

Editor’s Note: This story has been modified from its original version based on clarifications and corrections made to The Mary Sue by Mr. Rava.

(via Business Insider)

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Jessica Lachenal is a writer who doesn’t talk about herself a lot, so she isn’t quite sure how biographical info panels should work. But here we go anyway. She's the Weekend Editor for The Mary Sue, a Contributing Writer for The Bold Italic (thebolditalic.com), and a Staff Writer for Spinning Platters (spinningplatters.com). She's also been featured in Model View Culture and Frontiers LA magazine, and on Autostraddle. She hopes this has been as awkward for you as it has been for her.