Does lying (to get a legit answer) negate that legit answer (in legal court?)

Strangely worded question, but I had no other way to put it:

Suppose that a car dealer says, “I refuse to do business with Hispanic customers.” A white person thinks, “This is wrong,” and so decides to do a sting operation of sorts: He calls up the car dealer and asks to buy a car. The dealer asks, “Are you Hispanic?” And the white caller lies, “Yes.” The car dealer says, “Sorry, go back to Mexico you (slur,)” and hangs up.

Now, could the white person file a legit charge of racial discrimination, even though the caller is not Hispanic?
It could work a different way too. Suppose the dealer won’t do business with disabled customers. “Are you disabled?” And the customer answers yes, even though he’s not, to trap the dealer. Does this fly in court?

IANAL, but I believe it’s common in underage sex sting operations for adults to pose as underage kids and prosecute people on that basis.

It’s possible that the laws for sex with minors are different than the laws for discrimination in regards to this issue, however.

It depends on the language of the statute.

Many such anti-discrimination laws apply to the status or the perception of the status.
So if I wrongly think you are X and discriminate against you on that basis, that is often expressly prohibited.

In the absence of such language, they would have a good defense.


So, to make it more technical:

Suppose an airline says, “We refuse to fly Hispanic customers.” And a Hispanic customer forges a fake boarding pass to try to get aboard an airplane, and the airline service rep says, “Sorry, Mr. Gonzalez (reading his fake boarding pass,) we don’t permit Hispanic passengers.” Does the fact that his boarding pass was a forgery (in other words, he had no legal right to board the plane), negate his subsequent discrimination claim?
(Ignoring for now the difficulty of forging a realistic boarding pass.)

The businesses may be violating laws by their stated policy anyway. I assume the question in the OP is whether the person denied service has an individual civil claim against the business.

Again, this is at bottom a statutory interpretation question, so it would depend on the statute.

But there are two common elements of such statutes implicated here: discriminatory motive and adverse action.

The general rule is that a discriminatory motive is sufficient even if the defendant had a genuine and legal basis for the adverse action, so long as that other reason wasn’t the actual reason. So, for example, if you fire an employee for being a woman, it is no defense that you could have fired her for embezzling. Equally, in your hypothetical, so long as the forgery wasn’t the reason for the rejection, it doesn’t affect this element.

But your hypo might implicate the other element common to these statutes, adverse action. The airline could argue that the passenger was not harmed by the discriminatory action, since he had no right to fly in the first place. It would be like firing an employee who was only pretending to work there. No harm no foul. I’m not aware of there being any established law addressing that scenario, but that would be the general contours of the argument.

On the other hand, if she actually was embezzling, then it’s going to be very hard to prove that you fired her for being a woman.

Difficult to fire someone “for being a woman” since in most cases she would have been a woman when you hired her.

Suppose the alleged embezzler was pregnant. You fire her and she then claims that it was her pregnancy rather than dishonesty that triggered the action.

There’s no issue if you fire someone in a protected class for cause, that is assuming you can prove it. An actual crime like embezzlement trumps any claim of discrimination.

What you do is claim that a) there’s a history of negativity towards you that relates to you being a woman (e.g. alleged remarks and incidents etc.), b) other women have faced similar hostility without embezzling anything, and/or c) men who have committed comparable transgressions have not been fired.

There is a doctrine known as “unclean hands” in the sphere of tort law, which basically says that a court will not grant equitable relief to a party that is equally at fault. So if you sue for breach, a court may decline to award damages if it turns out you had already breached the contract yourself. Equally, it may decline to enforce a contract where the buyer lied about having the money to purchase an item, but it turns out the seller misrepresented what the item was. But that doctrine doesn’t apply in the context of an anti-discrimination statute.

You’re joking, right? There are any number of reasons why that could occur. The person making hiring decisions may change. The people working with the woman may change, and some or all of the new people find it difficult to work with a woman. The job description may have changed, and management may believe a woman is not capable of carrying out the new job functions. The woman may have been hired at a time of full employment, but is now being fired because qualified males are available.