It would be one thing if bar staff took umbrage at a pregnant woman downing shots and getting drunk. But a bar in the Chicago area has asked a lady to leave despite the fact she was drinking water. (via Chicago Tribune)
The issue is fraught with legal issues, according to the Coach House bar near Roselle. The 29-year-old Michelle Lee was catching up with friends when a bouncer took her to one side. “Can I ask you a personal question?” Lee recalled him saying. “Are you pregnant?” The answer was a clear “yes” (at eight months pregnant, it would have been difficult to argue otherwise, she said later) and the bouncer then asked her to leave the premises because he claimed that the bar would be liable if anything happened to her.
Lee did take her leave but, on reflection, has become upset with how the situation played out, believing that she could have been discriminated against by the bar. “He just said, if anything happens, if a fight breaks out and you get hurt, we are responsible,” Lee said. “That can happen anywhere. If I am going somewhere, I am taking responsibility.”
The bar in question hasn’t responded to questions put by the Chicago Tribune, but civil rights experts told them that, despite any good intentions, this shouldn’t have happened. “There are certain things for which you are not able to discriminate against someone, and one is their gender,” said Ed Yohnka, an American Civil Liberties Union spokesman. “And only women can have babies. You can’t discriminate against a pregnant person.”
And according to the Illinois Human Rights Act, “It is unlawful to discriminate in the full and equal enjoyment of facilities and services by any place of public accommodation.” Furthermore, under state law, bars are required to post a sign stating that, “According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects.”
But this doesn’t explain away the decision surrounding Lee and her glass of water. Indeed, Chicago lawyer Martin Dolan told the Tribune that a private bar can set its own rules but they must be established in advance and clear to all, such as a poster. As for Lee, she’s considering contacting a lawyer: “I wasn’t causing any trouble. I just want to be treated like everybody else.”