A restaurant near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington State has refused to serve Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees, posting a prominent sign by the door stating they are not welcome. Is this is a good thing?
The story came from Christopher Elliott and he did not bother to provide the name and address of the restaurant, but that is not important for the matter at hand.
First, the action of the restaurant owner is legal. Discrimination against non-protected classes in the United States does not run afoul of the law. Protected classes include:
- National origin
- Age (40 and over)
- Familial status
- Sexual orientation (in some jurisdictions)
- Gender identity (in some jurisdictions)
You won't find the TSA on that list. Refusing to serve TSA employees can be tricky, though. What if a Transportation Security Officer (TSO) in uniform who is black enters the restaurant. Will the owner throw him out? What about a TSO in uniform who is obviously older than 40 years of age. Will the owner throw him out? A female TSO out of costume orders her meal. During the service, the waiter notices the officer's badge that clearly identifies the officer as a TSA employee. Will the owner discontinue service? Will the owner admonish the female TSO that next time she won't be served?
I would hope the answer to all those questions would be yes, but if I was running a restaurant I would certainly be uncomfortable turning away a paying customer, especially one who could come back and claim I discriminated on the basis of their age, gender, or race.
Nevertheless, I think the restaurant owner in Seattle is doing the right thing. As long as it made clear that TSOs are refused service because of the organization they represent, I would hope that any lawsuit claiming unlawful discrimination would fail.
Although I do not hold TSA agents in high regard (because they have chosen to aid and abet in eroding civil liberties in the United States), I do not dislike any TSA agents personally. More so than anything, I pity that they must come to work and play a game of charades each day. But I associate the TSA with corruption, incompetence, and un-Americanism. Looking at it through that perspective, I cannot blame the restaurant owner for choosing the course of action he has embarked upon.
As one of his waiters told Chris Elliott:
We even have the police on our side and they have helped us escort TSA agents out of our cafe. Until TSA agents start treating us with the respect and dignity that we deserve, then things will change for them in the private sector.
That's the other problem. The TSA makes matters worse every day when their front-line employees are rude and snippy with passengers. The security theater is bad enough, but when you are insulted before you are strip-searched, the animosity compounds.
I hope to report back in a few months that a grass roots movement banning service to TSA employees has sprung up around the country. Maybe then the politicians will start listening to the traveling public.