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Right to Refuse Service: When It Is Legal and When It Is Not

Discrimination is not a concept that is tolerated in society. However, business owners do have the right to refuse service, in certain instances. Treading this line carefully can be a challenge, but it is essential that business owners get it right. Learn more about what a right to refuse service should and should not look like.

Uncontrollable Circumstances

As a general rule, you cannot refuse service to a customer over something that they cannot control. Gender, race, and disability are just some of the factors that fall into this category. Consider a store that only sold women's clothing, for instance. The store has a right to cater to a single demographic, but they cannot refuse service to male customers who want to purchase their merchandise. 

Health Mandates

In the event of any local health mandates, private business owners also have the right to refuse service to any individual who is in violation of these guidelines. For example, if local officials have deemed that all people must wear a mask inside of a building, a business can refuse service to any person who does not abide by this requirement. As an added note, even if there is not a local mandate, a store may still be able to put their own health mandates in place.


It is important that you keep all customers safe and comfortable, so if one customer is preventing you from providing such an environment, you have the right to refuse service. Threatening staff or customers, causing physical harm, destroying property, or any other violent behavior often fall within this category. This type of customer is perceived to be a threat.

Protect Your Business

If you want to adopt a right to refuse service practice for your business — it is best to consult an attorney. Private business owners have a great deal of liberty when it comes to setting the pace for their establishment, but there are still business laws to adhere by. For example, this practice has to be applied to every customer and the guidelines must be made visible for every patron to see. To stay safe, it is best to partner with an attorney will make sure you are on the right side of the line.

Again, while you have the right to refuse service, make sure you go about the process within the lines of business law. To learn more, contact a corporate law firm.