Two men turned away from a women-only karaoke night at the Visalia Wyndham in August have filed a lawsuit alleging gender discrimination. Steve Frye and George St. George filed suit last month, and have made headlines for filing similar suits around the state.
Katie Parker — a Visalia resident — and her company Girrlfriends Events, as well as the Visalia Wyndham, are the latest defendants in a series of lawsuits, including a recent suit in San Luis Obispo and other lawsuits in Southern California.
Frye and St. George filed suit in October under California’s Unruh Civil Rights act — which protects against discrimination based on sex, among other attributes — after Girrlfriends Events and a Wyndham employee denied them entry to the karaoke event, advertised as “ladies only.”
They’re seeking $4,000 “for each and every offense,” attorneys’ fees, and for “Defendants’ officers and employees to undergo diversity inclusion, and equity training.”
“It would be just as wrong if the situation were reversed and women and non-binary persons were excluded from a men-only event,” Greg Adler, their attorney, told the Valley Voice.
At the time of publication, neither Girrlfriends Events nor the Wyndham had responded to the suit, according to court records.
Turned away from the mic
Girrlfriends Events organize “Girrl Let’s Go Out” events, such as the karaoke night, and they are advertised as offering women “the perfect escape from [their] busy and hectic lives” and have been primarily held at the Wyndham hotel.
According to the suit, Frye emailed Parker on August 3 and stated that “myself and another guy friend of mine will be staying at the Wyndham in Visalia […] is it just for the ladies only as advertised or can guys join in as well.”
The suit states that both Frye and St. George planned to stay at the Wyndham from August 27 to August 28 and wished to attend.
“Sorry unfortunately it’s ladies only. We focus on having a comfortable environment for women to fully express themselves to achieve that its ladies only,” Parker replied, according to a screenshot of the email chain.
On the night of the event, Frye and St. George claim they were told by a Wyndham bartender that they could not attend the event — that it was “no guys, just women.”
Adler wrote in the filing that past precedent backs up their case, citing Koire v. Metro Car Wash, a 1985 California Supreme Court decision. The court held that a “Ladies’ Day” car wash discount for women was illegal under the Unruh Act.
He pointed the Voice to publications by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the California Bureau of Gambling Control, both of which state that gender-exclusive events are illegal under California law.
“Simply put, all three branches of government have spoken with one voice on this topic: Businesses that treat people differently based on their sex/gender – whether through different admittance/exclusion policies or pricing – are breaking the law and should be stopped,” he said.
“Imagine if an organizer advertised on a public website a karaoke event where only people of a particular race or religion were allowed to attend, and the venue where the event occurred went along with it by posting a sign in the lobby promoting the event, and when members of the disfavored race or religion asked if they could participate, the staff at the venue told them no because they weren’t members of the preferred race or religion. That would be clearly illegal,” he added.
Adler said that it is “just as illegal” to discriminate under other factors, including sex — and that excluding “women and non-binary persons” from a men-only event would be “just as wrong.”
History of suits against events with preferential treatment for women
Frye and St. George have gained media attention for prior suits they’ve brought alleging gender discrimination against men.
Adler said he was not at liberty to confirm where the two reside. A 2014 Orange County Register article stated Frye was a Huntington Beach resident and had filed suit against upwards of 40 businesses between Orange, Los Angeles, and San Diego counties and had “been filing lawsuits since at least 2008.”
Meanwhile, St. George has made headlines for suing Iliza Shlesinger, a comedian holding a women-only show, in 2017, and suing Ladies Get Paid — an organization that “champions the professional and financial advancement of women” — in 2018 for holding a women-only event.
Adler said those suits have led to change at each business they’ve taken to court.
“As a result of the dozens of Messrs. Frye and St. George’s Unruh Civil Rights Act sex discrimination lawsuits, dozens of California businesses no longer treat their customers unequally based on their sex, including the defendants in this case,” Adler said. “In fact, every business ended their discriminatory business practice or promotion after being sued by Mr. Frye or Mr. St. George.”
An article in The (San Luis Obispo) Tribune stated that — with Adler as his attorney — Frye recently filed suit against a San Luis Obispo pot dispensary last month for offering a Ladies Night promotion, and that he had filed four suits in San Luis Obispo county over the last seven years.
Adler also sued three businesses in Sacramento County for Unruh Act between 2009 and 2010 — as a plaintiff, not an attorney — Voice research found: Azukar Nightclub and Tre Lounge, two establishments offering discounts for women, and a Sacramento gym chain, California Family Fitness, which offered a facility exclusively to women, and areas in its other gyms that were women-only.
In the gym suit, his attorneys secured a class action settlement valued at approximately $5m in services such as access to the previously restricted areas as well as 30-day membership passes. Adler and his co-plaintiff were paid $12,500 each, and his attorneys earned $270,000 in legal fees.
In the two nightclub lawsuits, Adler was represented by Alfred Rava, an attorney that with his own headlines for suing to end women-only offers and events
Rava represented St. George and Frye in earlier lawsuits, but Adler denied any link between Rava and the Visalia lawsuit when asked whether Rava was involved or had referred the two to Adler.
Although Rava has represented St. George and Frye in the past, Adler is “the only attorney of record” in this case, he said.
Neither Parker nor Girrlfriends Events responded to requests for comment.