The owner of a Silver Spring delicatessen lost his second sex discrimination battle today when Maryland's second highest court ruled that his offer of discounts to persons wearing skirts and gowns was illegal.
Gus Haris, the owner of the Woodside Deli, said today he has no plans to appeal the ruling on his "Skirt and Gown Night," which was created after a county agency told him that "Ladies' Night" discounts were illegal. "I don't mind the idea that they are banning my skirt and gown night," which was discontinued after about seven weeks, he said.
He said he regrets having a Ladies' Night and admits he was wrong. He said that he still believes he was right to have a skirt and gown night, but that by now he regrets having had it. His only concern now, he said, is the legal bill that could be assessed against him.
Haris ran his weekly Ladies' Night for three years at his restaurant on Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring. Women received half price, he said, and it was a popular event. But Richard J. Peppin, an engineer, complained to the Montgomery County Human Relations Commission that he paid full price for his $4 dinner while his female companion received a $2 discount on her pastrami sandwich.
The commission ruled in favor of Peppin, and ordered Haris to pay Peppin $2 and stop the Ladies' Night.
Haris sent the check to Peppin and stopped the Ladies' Night discount. But when he started a skirt and gown night instead, Peppin appealed. The commission agreed with Peppin again, but it was overturned by a Circuit Court judge who said it was beyond the commission's authority to decide what was proper garb for men and women.
The Sex Discrimination Clinic at Georgetown University, which had come to Peppin's assistance, appealed the case to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. In the opinion handed down today, the appeals judges said it was clear that the skirt and gown night "was intended to -- and did -- have the same effect as Ladies' Night, i.e., it provided price discounts to women."
Haris said today that the court was wrong: He gave discounts to many men who came dressed in skirts or gowns, and never gave a discount to a woman wearing slacks.
Joan Meier, the clinic lawyer, said people at the clinic "are most estatic" with the ruling.
Meier, saying Peppin had received death threats during his legal battle with the Woodside Deli, said it is important not to view the case as a comedy involving a pastrami sandwich, skirts and gowns.
"Take Rosa Parks in the civil rights case: It was just sitting in the front of the bus. What difference does it make? . . . The real underlying question is, how seriously do you take discrimination based on sex?"