What should I know about discrimination in public spaces?

Authored By: GeorgiaLegalAid.org
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Public accommodations

Discrimination in public spaces



What is a public accommodation?

Federal law prohibits discrimination in some places that are opened to the public. These places are called public accommodations. A public accommodation is a space that offers goods or services to the general public. 


Public accommodations can be either:

  • Government owned and operated, such as:

    • Libraries

    • Post offices or 

    • Public pools

  • Privately owned and operated, like:

    • Restaurants,

    • Hotels, or

    • Stores.


Not all spaces that are opened to the public are public accommodations. For example, religious buildings like churches or mosques are not public accommodations unless they are being rented out for non-religious purposes. Private clubs that require a membership are not public accommodations. 

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What are my rights in a public accommodation?

You have the right to be free from discrimination in a public accommodation on the basis of:

  • Race, 

  • Color, 

  • National origin, 

  • Religion, or

  • Disability. 


Georgia is one of only a few states that does not have a public accommodations law. If you live in Georgia, you are protected by federal laws, but there are no additional protections from discrimination. 

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What are the rights and responsibilities of public places?

In Georgia, places that qualify as public accommodations cannot discriminate against individuals because of:

  • Race, 

  • Color, 

  • National origin, 

  • Religion, or

  • Disability. 


However, they may refuse service to you for other reasons, including: 

  • Disruptive behavior,

  • If the business is already crowded, 

  • If the business or building is closing, or

  • Loitering (hanging around without purchasing something).

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What can I do if I am discriminated against by a public accommodation?

If you are discriminated against on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, or disability by a public accommodation, you have three options. 


File a complaint with the Civil Rights Division

You can file a complaint with the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. 


File a complaint online. After the complaint is filed, it will be reviewed. The Civil Rights Division will decide whether it is the type of issue they handle. They will then get back to you to:

  • Follow up for more information,

  • Start a mediation or investigation,

  • Direct you to another organization that might handle your issue, or

  • Let you know that they cannot help.


To contact the Office of Civil Rights about your report, make sure you have your report number.

(202) 514-3847

1-855-856-1247 (toll-free)

(TTY) (202) 514-0716


Contact the U.S. Attorney in Georgia

You can file a complaint with the U.S. Attorney in Georgia.


For the U.S. Attorney of the Northern District of Georgia:

The United States Attorney's Office

Richard B. Russell Federal Building

75 Ted Turner Dr. SW

Suite 600

Atlanta, GA 30303-3309

Tel: 404.581.6000

Fax: 404.581.6181


For the U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of Georgia:


22 Barnard Street, Suite 300

Savannah, Georgia 31401

(912) 652-4422

Fax (912) 652-4388



600 James Brown Blvd, Suite 200

Augusta, Georgia 30901

(706) 724-0517

Fax (706) 724-7728


File a lawsuit

You can also file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court. Consult an attorney to discuss your options.

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Last Review and Update: Mar 02, 2022
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