Hefty Fine for ‘P Club’ Discrimination

Enforcement a first under 2007 civil rights law

9/4/2013, 10:26 a.m.
Comissioner Brad Avakian

Last year, investigators with the Bureau of Labor and Industries found substantial evidence of unlawful discrimination, including phone messages from P Club bar owner Chris Penner asking a group of transgender patrons to stop visiting his establishment because he didn’t want the venue to become known as a “tranny bar” or “gay bar”.

Under the Oregon Equity Act of 2007, Oregonians legally cannot be denied full and equal service based on sexual orientation. The law provides an exemption for religious organizations and schools, but does not allow private business owners to discriminate based on sexual orientation, just as they cannot legally deny service based on race, sex, age, disability or religion.

The Bureau issued a final order last week that directs Penner to compensate the patrons, 11 members of a group called the ‘T Girls,’ $20,000 to $50,000 per aggrieved person for emotional, mental and physical anguish as a result of their treatment. The bar on North Lombard Street is now known as the Twilight Room Annex

“Oregonians deserve to be treated fairly under the law,” said Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian. “For businesses seeking to understand the law, we can help them navigate the Oregon Equality Act and other existing state and federal protections. Our technical assistance for business program can field their questions and help them avoid potential violations in the first place.”

Since 2007, 11 complaints of unlawful discrimination in public places have been filed under the 2007 law. After investigations, BOLI found no substantial evidence in five of the complaints; parties negotiated settlements in three cases, with one case at northeast Portland bakery ‘Sweet Cakes’ still being reviewed.