Car rental agencies escape fine for age discrimination N.Y. judge says companies believed policy was legal


NEW YORK -- Hertz Corp., Avis Rent A Car Inc. and six other car-rental companies won't have to pay fines for age discrimination in a lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Dennis Vacco, because they didn't think their policy was illegal, a state judge has ruled.

Vacco sued Hertz, Avis, Alamo Rent A Car Inc., Budget Rent A Car Corp., National Car Rental Systems, Enterprise Rent A Car, Dollar Systems Inc. and Thrifty Rent-A-Car System Inc. in 1994, claiming that they wouldn't rent cars to people under 25. The New York State Court of Appeals ruled earlier this year that the car rental companies had violated the law and prohibited them from continuing their age-discrimination policy.

Vacco then asked the state court in Manhattan to force the car-rental companies to pay the state's legal costs, and to order fines for each age-discrimination incident.

Vacco was seeking $500 for each time the companies had knowingly violated the law.

New York State Supreme Court Judge Stephen Crane, while ordering the companies to pay $2,000 each to cover the state's legal costs, rejected Vacco's request for fines.

The evidence in the case "does not establish that [the car rental companies] continued their rental policies while knowing that such policies were unlawful," Crane said in his Oct. 3 decision.

Crane accepted the rental-car companies' claim that they rejected people under 25 because they didn't think insurance was available to cover the high costs of renting to young drivers. The judge said the companies did discriminate, though, because the state's automobile-insurance plan would have provided partial coverage, even though it wouldn't have covered physical damage to vehicles.

A spokesman at the attorney general's office in Albany, N.Y., declined to comment.

Pub Date: 10/09/97

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