ACLU Sues Detroit Hotel Over Age Discrimination

Affiliate: ACLU of Michigan
October 20, 2004 12:00 am

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20-Year-Old Army Reservist Denied Room at Holiday Inn

DETROIT -The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan today filed an age discrimination lawsuit against a downtown Detroit hotel that refused to rent a room to a 20-year-old Army Reservist and his 18-year-old girlfriend because they were 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.”

Army Reservist Thomas Zinn and Theresa Taylor, a college student, decided to stay overnight in the Detroit area after attending an evening Tigers game on August 4 because they felt too tired to make the four-hour drive back to their homes in Zeeland. However, when they attempted to rent a room at the Holiday Inn Downtown Express, they were told the hotel had a policy of renting rooms only to individuals who are 21 or older. The couple then called other nearby hotels and discovered similar policies. 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 Zinn, who is expecting to be called up for service in Iraq any day now. “It’s insulting that an assumption is made that we would ‘trash’ the room just because we’re not 21.”

The ACLU said that hotel policies like that of the Holiday Inn are in violation of the Michigan Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which prohibits age discrimination.

“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 ACLU of Michigan. “We hope this lawsuit will lead hotels across the state to drop their discriminatory policies.”

In addition to Steinberg and Moss, Andrew Nickelhoff of the Detroit law firm of Sachs Waldman, is serving as an ACLU cooperating attorney in the case. The complaint was filed in Wayne County Circuit Court and has been assigned to Judge Michael J. Callahan.

To read the complaint, go to

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