Las Vegas gym case tests "Ladies Night law"

Do price breaks for women discriminate against men?

By Lynn Harris

Published December 12, 2007 6:41PM (EST)

When Todd Phillips took a tour of the Las Vegas Athletic Club, he noticed that his wife not only would have a special workout area but would also be offered a lower fee for joining. Today's New York Times reports that Phillips, who -- oops! -- just happens to be a lawyer who specializes in gender bias cases, filed a complaint with the Nevada Equal Rights Commission, arguing that such gender-based bonuses were illegal under the state law banning sex discrimination. Word is that a ruling is expected shortly.

Do lower rates for women -- including $1 Drinks!!! All Top Shelf!!! -- discriminate against men? That depends: Are the prices adjusted for the wage gap? Ha, ha. Seriously, it's not the first time the question has been raised in court. The series of cases -- with various answers in various states -- now form the body of what's been nicknamed Ladies Night law.

Phillips and others who oppose such pricing practices suggest that they're no more acceptable than, say, a "a whites-only country club or whites-get-in-free deal." (The hero of this movement, such as it is, is Colorado's Steve Horner, who arguably could benefit from some sort of whites-get-in-free-deal at charm school.)

Still others argue that while women get in cheaper on ladies nights, they may pay a higher price of a different sort.

On paper and in effect, no, gender-based entrance fees are not fair; I understand the grumbling. But while I can't say how this particular case should play out according to the letter of Nevada law, I can at least suggest that the intention behind such pricing is really, really different from the intention behind, say, the Christian People Country Club or Whitey Night at Chuckles. As Mandalay Bay marketing manager Randy Maddocks told the Times, "I get it, but I don't think it's necessarily discrimination. It's more about whom we're trying to bring in, that's all." Right. Not whom we're trying to keep out.

Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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