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.”