WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today announced a settlement with Cuba Libre Rum Bar and Restaurant for discriminating against a transgender District resident and also introduced legislation to clarify the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) ability to protect District residents from discrimination. Cuba Libre, a downtown restaurant, made headlines last year when an employee attempted to prevent a transgender District resident from using a bathroom that corresponds to her gender identity. OAG’s settlement with Cuba Libre requires the restaurant to stop discriminating against transgender residents, institute policies and employee training to ensure compliance with the District’s non-discrimination laws, and pay the District $7,000 for a penalty and legal costs. The legislation introduced by OAG today, the “Attorney General Civil Rights Enforcement Clarification Amendment Act of 2019,” will clarify OAG’s authority to bring lawsuits regarding violations of the District’s Human Rights Act (HRA).
“The District’s laws reflect one of our residents’ most deeply-held values: that all people should be treated equally,” said AG Racine. “With this settlement, Cuba Libre is required to maintain policies that will ensure this type of discrimination does not happen again. I want to thank the restaurant’s management and staff for cooperating fully in our investigation and seeking to rectify their wrongdoing.”
Cuba Libre Rum Bar and Restaurant, located at 801 9th Street NW in Chinatown, is a large Cuban-themed restaurant and bar. On June 22, 2018, Cuba Libre staff attempted to prevent Charlotte Clymer from using the eatery’s women’s restroom and demanded to see her identification, even though Ms. Clymer identifies as a woman. The HRA, one of the nation’s oldest laws prohibiting discrimination against individuals on the basis of gender identity or expression, protects District residents from discrimination based on a wide variety of personal characteristics. An OAG investigation uncovered evidence that Cuba Libre:
- Failed to have a company policy to prevent discrimination in restaurant bathrooms: Although District law requires businesses to clearly and explicitly communicate the District’s anti-discrimination laws to their employees, Cuba Libre did not have a written policy ensuring compliance with the HRA with regard to restroom facilities. As a result, some employees believed that the restaurant’s policy was to require individuals to use the restroom that corresponds to the gender on their identification card.
- Failed to train employees properly on civil rights compliance: Although required to do so by law, Cuba Libre did not provide adequate training to employees to ensure they understood how the District’s HRA applies to use of restrooms or other parts of the restaurant.
OAG’s settlement requires Cuba Libre to stop its civil rights violations and to comply with the District’s civil rights laws. Under the settlement, the restaurant will:
- Institute policies on civil rights compliance and training: Cuba Libre will create written corporate policies for employees to ensure compliance with all aspects of the District’s laws and regulations regarding gender identity, expression, and other protected categories. The restaurant will provide this policy to all employees, create and maintain a training program for employees, and require current and future employees to be trained on their legal requirements about discrimination.
- Post clear bathroom signage: Cuba Libre will post signage on its bathrooms consistent with D.C. law regarding gender identity and expression. The signage will clearly state that, under D.C. law, all individuals are allowed to use the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity or expression.
- Report future civil rights complaints to OAG: For two years following the agreement, Cuba Libre will be required to report any complaints about HRA violations to AG Racine’s office. The sworn reports will be issued twice a year and will include the date and description of each complaint. The reports will also include a summary of any remedial measures taken by the restaurant to rectify the problem that led to the complaint.
- Pay $7,000 penalty to the District: Cuba Libre will pay $7,000 in penalties for violating the HRA and for legal costs.
Cuba Libre fired the employees involved in the June incident and made other changes as the result of an internal investigation it conducted. The restaurant also reached a separate individual settlement with Ms. Clymer.
A copy of AG Racine’s settlement with Cuba Libre is available at: http://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2019-01/Cuba-Libre-AVC.pdf
Civil Rights Legislation
AG Racine’s legislation introduced today, “Attorney General Civil Rights Enforcement Clarification Amendment Act of 2019,” would clarify OAG’s authority to bring civil actions under the HRA. It will make clear that OAG has the independent ability to bring cases for violations of the HRA as well as continuing to bring cases in collaboration with the District’s Office of Human Rights.
A copy of the legislation is available at: http://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2019-01/AGCR-Permanent-Legislation.pdf
To Report Discrimination
If you have been discriminated against by a business in the District, you can report it to the District’s Office of Human Rights by filing a complaint on their website at: https://ohr.dc.gov/service/file-discrimination-complaint.