By: Rob Harris
Canada’s Deer Ridge Golf Club successfully defended a claim of discrimination brought against it by a club member who argued that he should not be required to pay for the cost of a golf cart.
The member, who for purposes of the case was deemed to be disabled by virtue of a broken ankle suffered in 2006, was an active golfer, playing 100 rounds between April and September, before heading off for more golf in Arizona during the winter. However, his injury precluded him from walking, and he asserted that, even though he was financially able to absorb the cart fees, the club was discriminating against him based on his disability by requiring that he pay for the cart. Instead, he argued, the cost of carts for him and others similarly situated should be borne by the entire club membership in the form of higher fees.
The claimant’s argument was rejected in a ruling issued by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. According to the ruling:
“All players at the respondent club who use a power cart must pay to so; therefore, it is obvious that players, like the applicant, who always use a cart while golfing will incur higher expenses than those who do not, In my view, such higher expenses amount to a disadvantage. The applicant uses a power cart because his disability prevents him from walking; therefore, the disadvantage for the applicant is linked to a prohibited ground of discrimination. The jurisprudence is clear, however, that not all distinctions or disadvantages are discriminatory. In my view, the requirement for players at the respondent golf club to pay to use power carts does not amount to a substantive disadvantage for individuals, like the applicant, who must use carts because of a disability. There was no evidence that this requirement poses a barrier to players with disabilities. The only evidence before me was with respect to the applicant’s experience and he admitted that paying for power cart rentals did not prevent him from golfing, and indeed he plays quite regularly… The applicant agreed that he is fully able to enjoy golfing at the respondent club. Accordingly, the requirement to pay to use a power cart has not caused him to be excluded or restricted in playing golf. In these circumstances, I cannot find that the applicant has suffered a substantive disadvantage…”