Iowa bar faces discrimination claim over bar-dancing policy

By J. DeVoy

An admittedly portly University of Iowa undergrad, Jordan Ramos, is accusing a local nightclub for refusing to let her dance on the bar.  Simultaneously, if she had danced on the bar, fallen and been injured – she would almost certainly have sued the bar anyway.  Either way, it is a frivolous claim.  And, hopefully, a victory for the establishment, the Union Bar, on a motion to dismiss in either circumstance.

Jordan Ramos was denied the opportunity to stand atop a bar platform and dance for onlookers.  In Las Vegas, nightclubs hire go-go dancers for this specific purpose.  In Iowa City, the bars apparently take what they can get and even allow walk-ons.  Ramos was denied the opportunity to scale the bar and dance atop it in March.  When she returned to the bar in April, she once again was denied access to a dancing platform:

“[A bouncer] said, ‘You’re not pretty enough and you’re pregnant.’ I said, ‘I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that I am not pregnant.’ He then looked at my stomach and said, ‘You obviously are.’ They knew I was not pregnant; it was there way of calling me fat without having to actually say it,” Ramos said. (source)

Surely no woman inside a nightclub has ever lied; nor has pregnancy ever been the subject of untruth.

I do wonder if Ramos and any lawyer pursuing the claim will be sanctioned by a court if it is filed.  The story raises a serious question as to whether she knows she had no claim against the bar:

Ramos approached the Human Rights Commission in Iowa City, but the organization told her they could not do an investigation because size discrimination is not illegal by law, Ramos said. (source)

If Ramos tells her attorney about the commission’s finding and he/she was aware of it at the time of filing suit, there’s a good argument for sanctions against Ramos and even her attorney.  Even if filed pro se, Ramos’ action will force the bar to mount a defense and research why weight discrimination by a private company (even one offering a place of public accommodation) is not unlawful in Iowa – a few thousand dollars that can and should stay in the venue’s hands.

Who emboldened Ramos to do this stupid shit?  Certainly not a lawyer, who like the Human Rights Commission would have done some research and seen that Iowa law does not outlaw size discrimination.  No, it was a social work professor – someone who, true to the maxim, could not do social work, and thus opted to teach it instead:

A social work professor at the University of Iowa told Ramos to return to the bar.

“She told my friends and I to go back and see if the same thing happens and to try to get them to say aloud ‘I am not allowing you up because of your size,’” Ramos said. (source)

Sorry, dipshit; being “othered” is not a cause of action.  This subthread to the story is another vignette justifying my intense dislike for social workers along with teachers as the scylla and charybdis of useless public sector jobs, leading hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds to a useless demise.

Every few years one of these disputes arise, and yet “face policies” persist.  There are several reasons for this, the first being that state laws cannot reasonably adapt to subjective categories of discrimination such as “size” the way they can to objective standards like race, national origin and religion – making it difficult, if not impossible, to outlaw these other forms of discrimination.  Additionally, they work.  Why do people wait for hours and pay hundreds of dollars to get into Marquee, XS or Haze?  Is it because they’re letting John and Jane Q Public in the door with flip-flops, unflattering clothing and an unseemly gait? Hint: No.  Keeping out average people is a way to maintain exclusivity and charge supracompetitive prices for an utterly forgettable experience, converting admission to the venue into intangible social capital.

Unfortunately, the outcome of drunken people dancing on elevated surfaces normally is injury.  While the bar may or may not be liable for the injuries dancers suffer from their activities, it’s easier to avoid litigation that will cost far more than this motion to dismiss to find out the contours of this responsibility.  There are a number of facts that point in both directions, such as bouncers regulating who may or may not dance, as well as the provision of flat surfaces amenable to dancing (and the accepted practice of patrons doing so).  While an imperfect policy, the bouncers did what they could: Screening for people who appeared to have the litheness and balance to dance without causing themselves injury.

Under California law, the venue’s actions arguably would be expressive conduct – the setting, enforcement and expression of a policy put in place for patron safety and bar profitability under Cal. Code of Civil Procedure § 425.16.  A suit based on Ramos’ claims could face dismissal under California’s anti-SLAPP statute, and leave the aggrieved student to pay the bar’s legal fees – as she should.  Iowa, however, has no anti-SLAPP statute at all.

As for Ms. Ramos, perhaps she should go to the gym before the courthouse.  The world is not a nice place, and not every ugly duckling matures into a graceful swan.  I do not complain about “discrimination” at the hands of bodybuilding competitions because I’d be laughed off the stage in spite of the time I spend in the gym.  Her disappointment in life – and I believe there will be lots of it, given her seemingly hypersensitive leap to litigation in this instance – is not actionable.

EDIT: Re-reading the articles, I see there is no claim that a lawsuit has been filed, no reference to a case, and no docket number provided.  Apparently there is no active litigation.  So – why is this news?

6 Responses to Iowa bar faces discrimination claim over bar-dancing policy

  1. Socialkenny says:

    So is this a case of “Catch 22″?Let her dance,she falls,then sues the establishment?Or exclude her from dancing,then she claims descrimination anyway lol.

  2. FFY says:

    What a disgrace to my state. Let’s kick her out.

    Also, proud of Union for sticking to their guns. I don;t always hit up Union but when I do, it’s a bomb ass time. Also saw Wiz Khalifa there a few years ago, it was sick.

  3. Beth Hutchens says:

    Jay said,”the first being that state laws cannot reasonably adapt to subjective categories of discrimination such as “size” the way they can to objective standards like race, national origin and religion – making it difficult, if not impossible, to outlaw these other forms of discrimination.”

    Thank you, Mr. DeVoy, for recognizing this. Now please stop it before the uggos start petitioning for treatment as a special class.

  4. Alpha says:

    This whole situation could have been avoided if she was denied explanation, “Help me up to dance!”

    “No.”

    “Why not!?”

    “Please go back to the dance floor, ma’am.”

    But being as he went the pregnant route, I have to assume that he reads my blog.

  5. [...] Can a bar discriminate against fat people when it comes to….dancing on top of a bar? My guess is “yes” for many reasons, but yes, there is a lawsuit: Jordan Ramos was [...]

  6. asdflkj says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e62655QcUis&feature=g-upl Here’s a youtube link for a stand up comedy set about this girl at the Yacht Club in Iowa City. Recorded on monday, april 30th 2012. Enjoy!

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