Goshen car dealership investigated for refusing service to Orthodox Jewish man

Goshen. Car dealer takes remedial action against employees who refused service citing coronavirus fears. New York’s civil rights law prohibits discrimination based on religion.

Goshen /
24 Mar 2020 | 05:55

A Toyota dealership in Goshen is being investigated for refusing service to an Orthodox Jewish man because the staff was fearful of contracting the coronavirus from him.

Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler announced on Tuesday that his office is conducting an inquiry into the incident.

In a widely disseminated video created by the customer, an employee of the dealership admitted denying the man service because he “is spreading the virus." On the video, the employee did not respond when the customer asked why he was being refused service while others were being served.

Hoovler said he spoke to the owner of the dealership, who said employees were not instructed to refuse service to members of the Orthodox Jewish community. The owner has since taken remedial action against the employees involved in the incident.

"The dealership acknowledged their obligation to provide service without regard to a customer’s religion," Hoovler said.

“No business can withhold service from any person on account of their race, creed, color or national origin, even during this time of emergency,” said Hoovler. “While there may be an understandable fear of contracting the coronavirus, there is never an excuse to violate people’s civil rights due to their race, gender or religion. Every business, essential or not, that does treat people equally is liable for prosecution under New York’s Civil Rights Law. Now, more than ever, New Yorkers should treat each other equally and with respect and, most importantly, follow the law.”

New York State Civil Rights Law section 40 provides that no business proprietor, manger, or employee shall directly or indirectly refuse, withhold or deny patronage of a business “on account of race, creed, color or national origin.” Section 41 of that law states that each violation of section 40 is “a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof (the defendant) shall be fined not less than one hundred dollars nor more than five hundred dollars, or shall be imprisoned not less than thirty days nor more than ninety days, or both such fine and imprisonment.”

Hotline launched to report coronavirus hate crimes
Attorney General Letitia James launched a hotline where New Yorkers can report coronavirus hate crimes and bias-based incidents. Those experiencing hate crimes and bias incidences may report them to the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau at civil.rights@ag.ny.gov, or by calling 1-800-771-7755. The hotline comes in the wake of rising reports of harassment and assaults, as well as rhetoric against Asian Americans amidst the pandemic. “As we face an unprecedented and uncertain time for New York, the United States, and the world, we must reiterate the fact that this pandemic does not give anyone an excuse to be racist, xenophobic, or biased,” said James. “No one should live in fear for their life because of who they are, what they look like, or where they come from. I encourage all victims of discriminatory actions stemming from this pandemic to contact my office. We will continue to work with local law enforcement to combat hate in all its insidious forms.”