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Disability-based discrimination — Claims under Unruh Act
Brennon B. v. West Contra Costa Unified School District Case No. A157026 – California Court of Appeal, First District New
Member(s) Involved: West Contra Costa Unified School District
Current status and/or outcome:
On Nov. 13, 2020, the appellate court upheld the lower court’s dismissal, finding that public school districts are not “business establishments” under the Unruh Act, and that districts are already subject to an array of antidiscrimination laws. Plaintiff Brennon B. has appealed, and the case is currently before the California Supreme Court.
Importance of statewide issue:
Application of the Unruh Act to school districts could open up districts to recovery of excessive treble damages and attorney’s fees for plaintiffs, thereby creating greater financial risk for already underfunded public schools.
Summary of the case:
Plaintiff student Brennon B. sued his school district for disability-based discrimination, including a claim under the Unruh Act. The Unruh Act prohibits discrimination based on a number of characteristics, including disability, and applies to all business establishments in California.

West Contra Costa Unified School District prevailed on demurrer (a pleading in a lawsuit challenging the legal sufficiency of a cause of action) with the trial court dismissing the lawsuit and holding that the Unruh Act does not apply to public school districts as they are not “business establishments” subject to the Act.

Plaintiff appealed the trial court’s order. The ELA filed an amicus brief with the Court of Appeal in support of the district, noting that the Superior Court correctly held that the Unruh Act does not apply to school districts.