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As if the Subway Series with the New York Mets were not enough to occupy the New York Yankees this week, the partnership that owns the American League champions was told by a federal judge yesterday that it must go to trial in a civil rights lawsuit filed by a black woman who claims she was denied entry into the Stadium Club restaurant, located in Yankee Stadium. The plaintiff, V. Whitney Joseph, alleged that the team denied her entry into the establishment because her attire violated its dress code, while white patrons dressed in a similar fashion were allowed entry. Southern District of New York Judge Sidney H. Stein yesterday refused to dismiss the lawsuit. Joseph is seeking relief under the federal Civil Rights Act, the state Human Rights Law and the city Human Rights Law. Lawyers for the Yankees said that Joseph’s complaint failed to state a claim for relief. The team argued that the woman was not denied entry and was in fact allowed into the restaurant when she returned after a change of clothes. But Judge Stein said that the plaintiff has at least stated a case that she was subjected to a more stringent interpretation of the club’s dress code than were white patrons. In Joseph v. New York Yankees Partnership, 00 Civ. 2275, Joseph said that on July 20, 1998, she visited Yankee Stadium to watch a baseball game, accompanied by her two sons and a friend. In addition to her game ticket, Joseph and her party had admission passes to the Stadium Club. The club’s dress code, which is printed outside the entrance to the club and on the back of the admission pass, prohibits the wearing of “tank tops . . . thongs or any other abbreviated attire.” Joseph’s friend, Nancy Daddato, who is white, was admitted to the club even though she was wearing shorts and a tank top. Daddato entered the club with Joseph’s sons. When Joseph attempted to join her party, she was stopped at the entrance and told by the ticket taker that her attire — a tank top and shorts — was not acceptable, and that she would not be allowed in. Joseph went out to her car and changed into a T-shirt, and was then admitted. While there, she alleged that she observed non-minorities wearing clothing that was “skimpier” than those she wore the first time she tried to gain entry. According to the Yankees, mere delay in gaining entry to the restaurant does not amount to the loss of a contractual interest asserted by Joseph. DRESS CODE But Judge Stein said that Joseph may have been forced to meet different conditions of service from other club patrons. If she was asked to fulfill an additional condition not required of non-minority customers, then she may have a valid claim that she was denied the same benefit of contract as enjoyed by non-minority customers, Judge Stein reasoned. There is also a triable issue as to whether the Yankees intended to discriminate against Joseph on the basis of her race when it admitted white women who were allegedly dressed similarly, or in even more “abbreviated” clothing than was Joseph. Judge Stein said that a jury could reasonably conclude from the facts on the record that the team “intentionally discriminated by enforcing the dress code against Joseph, but not against non-minorities.” Joseph’s attorney is Joseph J. Ranni, of Ranni, Vassalle, Dussek & DiMartini. The Yankees partnership is represented by Aaron J. Schindel of Proskauer Rose.

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