ACLU Sues Holiday Inn for Age Discrimination

October 20, 2004

DETROIT –The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed an age discrimination lawsuit today against the Holiday Inn on behalf of a 20-year-old member of the Army Reserves who was denied a room because he was too young.

“It’s amazing that a person who is old enough to defend our country in a war is considered too young to register himself into a hotel room,” said Kary Moss, ACLU of Michigan Executive Director. “If a hotel has a problem with a guest’s behavior, it should address the individual’s behavior, not discriminate against an entire group of people based on unfair stereotypes.”

The ACLU is representing two young adults from Zeeland who wanted to stay overnight in the Detroit area after attending an evening Tigers game on August 4.  Thomas Zinn is a twenty-year old college student and member of the Army Reserves who, like many members in his unit have already been deployed to Iraq, could be called up any day to serve his country.  Zinn attended the game with his longtime girlfriend, Theresa Taylor, who is eighteen-years old and is also a college student.

When the game ended, Zinn and Taylor felt too tired to make the four-hour drive back to Zeeland and decided to return the next day.  However, the Holiday Inn and several other hotels that they visited or called had policies of renting rooms only to individuals who are 21 or older.  Finally, at about 2 a.m. Zinn and Taylor found a motel that allowed them to stay the night.

“We did the responsible thing by deciding to rent a room for the night and not take a chance of falling asleep while driving,” said Tom Zinn. “It’s insulting that an assumption is made that we would ‘trash’ the room just because we’re not 21.”

“Young adults wishing to spend a night in a hotel have been the victims of blatant age discrimination in Michigan for far too long,” said Michael J. Steinberg, legal director of the Michigan ACLU.  “We hope this lawsuit will lead hotels across the state to drop their discriminatory policies.”

Zinn and Taylor are represented by ACLU cooperating attorney Andrew Nickelhoff of the Detroit law firm of Sachs Waldman, as well as Steinberg and Moss.  The lawsuit alleges that Holiday Inn violated the Michigan Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which prohibits age discrimination.

The complaint was filed this morning in Wayne County Circuit Court this morning and was assigned to Judge Michael J. Callahan.  To read the complaint, go to http://aclumich.org/sites/default/files/file/pdf/briefs/holidayinncomplaint.pdf