AASM (Ask A Salon Manager) posts are Q&A posts. To submit your question, contact me.
“Can a salon owner decide who my clients are? For example, if she doesn’t like someone, can she tell me they’re not welcome in the salon?”
Whether or not a salon owner can dictate who is permitted to patronize the salon depends on whether you’re a renter or an employee, and whether their reason for refusing the client is discriminatory or not.
If you’re a renter, then you’re a commercial tenant operating your own independent business. In that arrangement, the salon owner is a landlord and cannot dictate how you conduct your business or with whom. Their job is to collect a check from you for your rent and ensure the roof isn’t falling down on top of you. That’s it.
If you’re an employee, the business owner can absolutely dictate to you–not just who you’re permitted to service as an employee of her business, but what products you use, what you wear, what you do, and how you do it. They have the right to refuse service to anyone at any time–as long as they’re not being discriminatory.
So, when does a salon owner cross the line from “right to refuse service” to “civil rights violation?” Whenever that refusal is based on a client’s race, color, religion, national origin, disability–and in many jurisdictions now (and hopefully soon on a federal level with the recently proposed Full Equality Act of 2015)–sexual orientation and gender identity. This law (The Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964) is a federal law, which means the entire United States is covered. It prohibits discrimination by privately owned “places of public accommodation.”
Discrimination aside, a salon owner may refuse service to anyone, as long as the reason for refusal isn’t arbitrary or restricted to one group of people. There must be a specific reason to refuse service, and that refusal must be consistent–the policy must apply to everyone.
Generally, business owners do not like to turn away customers. Money is money, regardless of whose wallet it’s coming from, but in salons you often see refusal of service for one of the following reasons:
1.) Disruptive: Guests who are too loud or boisterous are often asked not to return, since they disrupt the atmosphere for the other clients in the salon. It’s not unreasonable to require clients to respect the space by keeping their volume down.
2.) Under the Influence: Obviously, anyone under the influence doesn’t belong in the salon…for multiple reasons.
3.) Sexual Impropriety: Whether it’s dressing or behaving overtly sexual, or propositioning the employees for sex, this has to be our #1 reason to boot out a customer. If I had a nickle for every time I reprimand or dismiss a client for something of this nature, I’d have probably $0.65–that’s a lot of nickles. (Related side note: Is it really that difficult to wear underwear when you come to get a pedicure, ladies, especially when you’re wearing a SKIRT?!)
4.) Aggressive/Unfriendly/Disrespectful: Can a salon owner dismiss a client for being rude? You bet.
5.) Ineligible for Services: Any client who presents a disorder or condition that makes them ineligible for services legally must be dismissed. Responsible salon owners will never allow their employees to operate outside of their scope of practice.
As far as simply “not liking” a particular person (maybe a high school rival?), I’d say the owner needs to grow up and be an adult. Unless that client poses some kind of threat to her business, there’s no justifiable reason to refuse service.
So, there you have it. Have you ever had to dismiss a client? Tell us below in the comments!