Discrimination by Customers

34 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2014 Last revised: 22 Sep 2016

See all articles by Katharine T. Bartlett

Katharine T. Bartlett

Duke University - School of Law

Mitu Gulati

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: September 20, 2016


Customers discriminate by race and gender, with considerable negative consequences for female and minority workers and business owners. Yet anti-discrimination laws apply only to discrimination by firms, not by customers. We examine efficacy and privacy reasons for why this may be so, as well as changing features of the market that, by blurring the line between firms and customers, make current law increasingly irrelevant. We conclude that, while there are reasons to be cautious about regulating customer behavior, those reasons do not justify acceding to customer discrimination altogether. To open a discussion of the regulatory options that take account of the most significant concerns, we offer a modest proposal. This proposal does not create a legal obligation on the part of customers themselves, but rather requires firms that already have nondiscrimination obligations to do more to reduce the occurrence, and consequences, of discrimination by customers.

Keywords: customer discrimination, employment discrimination, civil rights, privacy

JEL Classification: J15, J16, J71, J78

Suggested Citation

Bartlett, Katharine T. and Gulati, Mitu, Discrimination by Customers (September 20, 2016). Duke Law School Public Law & Legal Theory Series No. 2015-4, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2540334 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2540334

Katharine T. Bartlett

Duke University - School of Law ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States
919-613-7001 (Phone)
919-613-7158 (Fax)

Mitu Gulati (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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