D.C. restaurant agrees to second trans nondiscrimination settlement

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D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine announced on Jan. 16 that his office reached a settlement with the Cuba Libre Rum Bar and Restaurant that requires the establishment to adopt policies and procedures to prevent it from discriminating against transgender people.

The settlement came just over six months after the D.C. Attorney General’s office opened an investigation into the restaurant following a complaint that one of its managers forced a trans woman to leave after she used the women’s bathroom.

In an incident that drew extensive media coverage, trans activist Charlotte Clymer said the manager ordered a bouncer to eject her from the premises after she entered the women’s bathroom without complying with a restaurant requirement that she show legal identification confirming her gender was female.

Clymer said the manager ignored her attempt to explain such a policy violates the city’s Human Rights Act, which bans discrimination against trans people.

Cuba Libre’s owner issued an apology for the manager’s actions and later agreed to a separate settlement with Clymer brokered by the D.C. Office of Human Rights agreeing to take a series of steps to train employees and adopt policies to prevent such an incident from happening again.

The earlier settlement reached with the help of the Office of Human Rights came after Clymer filed a discrimination complaint against the restaurant with the OHR. It is similar to the one reached with the Office of the Attorney General in terms of the actions the restaurant must take.

However, OAG spokesperson Robert Marus told the Washington Blade on Jan. 16 that the Attorney General’s settlement includes the force of a court injunction that holds the restaurant legally bound to comply with the terms of the settlement.

“This is a consumer action that we brought under the District’s consumer laws that regulate businesses,” Marus said. “This includes injunctive relief that requires the owners and operators of Cuba Libre to institute programs to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” he said.

The agreement with the Attorney General’s Office calls for Cuba Libre to “institute policies on civil rights compliance and training” to ensure the city’s laws pertaining to gender identity and expression are followed and that all employees are trained to fully understand those policies.

It also requires the restaurant to “post clear bathroom signage” that states that under D.C. law “all individuals are allowed to use the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity or expression.”

In addition, it requires Cuba Libre to report any complaints made against it related to D.C. Human Rights Act violations to the Attorney General’s Office for two years following the signing of the settlement. Finally, the settlement calls for the restaurant to pay a $7,000 penalty to the D.C. government for violating the Human Rights Act and for legal costs.

“The District’s laws reflect one of our residents’ most deeply-held values: That all people should be treated equally,” Racine said in a statement. “With this settlement, Cuba Libre is required to maintain policies that will ensure this type of discrimination does not happen again.”

He thanked the restaurant’s management and staff for “cooperating fully in our investigation and seeking to rectify their wrongdoing.”

Clymer told the Blade on Jan. 16 that Cuba Libre has fully complied with the terms of the separate agreement she reached with the restaurant through the Office on Human Rights on Aug. 31.

“I am quite grateful for the work of Attorney General Racine and his staff to ensure that discrimination has no place in D.C., and I am thankful that Cuba Libre and CEO Barry Gutin have worked in good faith since the fall to ensure that this doesn’t happen again,” Clymer said.

“All parties worked together to make sure a terrible night was turned into a great teaching moment, which was built on the history of advocacy by trans folks in D.C., particularly trans women of color,” she said.

Racine also announced on Jan. 16 that he has submitted a proposed bill to the D.C. Council that would clarify the Office of the Attorney General’s authority to bring civil actions under the D.C. Human Rights Act independent of the Office of Human Rights. The proposed legislation is called the Attorney General Civil Rights Enforcement Clarification Amendment Act of 2019.

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