The truth behind the Unruh Civil Rights Act lawsuit against Chic CEO and attacks against NCFM Secretary Al Rava

Publishers note: Sharpen your pens ladies and gents. This story is gaining traction. With over 700 comments on Yahoo News, many of them supportive of NCFM we urge you to go in and make your voice heard. Thank you. – AVFM Staff

NOTE: This article follows, clarifies, and expands on an earlier article about NCFM’s position on no-men-allowed business seminars, conferences, and networking events. This subject continues to capture a lot of media attention. For example, news giant Yahoo News is working on a story about NCFM’s stance on these single sex commercial undertakings.  Interestingly, Yahoo News reporter Alyssa Bereznak has applied for NCFM membership.  This article is still a work in progress as of this posting.

Stephanie Burns, Founder, Chic CEO, on April 16, 2014 offered a women-only business event in violation of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, three men were denied access because of their sex (gender) and a lawsuit followed.

Some of what follows concerns a related YouTube video by Ms. Burns. The video was edited for inappropriate and litigious, if not false, statements and then reposted. The discussion below uses the reposted edited version.

This article concerns (1) statements by Ms. Burns in the edited version of the video (2) other claims (3) the petition to gut the Unruh Civil Rights Act (4) Al Rava, the principle civil rights attorney involved (5) NCFM and its involvement with the Unruh Civil Rights Act (6) the media (7) a few last thoughts.


  1. Burns says Chic CEO “is a resource for female entrepreneurs. Anyone can use Chic CEO but we do focus on women.” Ms. Burns impresses upon viewers that Chic CEO has male advisers, mentors, clients, men at their events, male speakers at their conferences, men in their brain trust, men are interviewed in over half of her podcasts, and she truly believes men are the next trend in female entrepreneurship. “Clearly, we don’t discriminate against men… we had a networking mixer for women…”

Though NCFM is not involved with the lawsuit against Ms. Burns and Chic CEO, related news stories involved us. Thus, by comparison, anyone can use the resources of NCFM’s web and social networking sites, though we focus on men’s rights. Since 1977, in one capacity or another, NCFM has had women on its Board of Directors, on its Executive Board, Advisory Board, in chapters as chapter presidents, as mentors, speakers at conferences, outreach and education workers, and in many other capacities, including at least one founding member, and our national treasure(r) is named Deborah.

Clearly, Chic CEO discriminated against the men turned away at the door from the April 2014 networking mixer for women, regardless of whether Ms. Burns or Chic CEO are otherwise male friendly.

  1. Burns says, the “men came uninvited, we were already over capacity, and I got that weird feeling in my stomach. So, I turned them away.”

The men reserved spots at the event by prepaying in advance and received a confirmation email from Ms. Burns (see email receipt directly below). Ms. Burns knew the men were coming, she was “looking forward to seeing” them at the event, not only had they prepaid, their names were on thePre-Purchased Event Reciept SHRUNKguest list. The men were clearly invited (see the next email below from Ms. Burns).

unruh civilThe event was not overcapacity. Women were entering while the men were there. There are pictures of one of the men standing at the entrance as other woman were preparing to enter the event. One of the men while talking with and being turned away by Ms. Burns watched another woman enter the event, two other women were in line behind him while another women signed something at the check-in table. The two other men watched two women enter the event while talking with and being turned away by Ms. Burns.

Moreover, the “weird feeling” assertion calls into question the “over capacity” claim.

  1. Burns says that whether it was legal or illegal to turn the men away she “will always be firm in that I was right” and she would make the same decision since her “loyalty” lies with the women who attended and need a “safe” and “comfortable” place to network.

Our loyalty and focus lies with all the citizens of California who deserve a safe place to live free of discrimination because of their sex (gender). The men would do it again since their loyalty is to the people of California and not a few people at a networking event that illegally discriminates against California’ citizens based on their sex (gender).

Ms. Burns’ insinuation that the men would have made the event less safe is ridiculous, insulting, purely speculative and sexist.

Whether allowing men to attend would make the women uncomfortable is similarly speculative and subjective. No one will know the truth since Ms. Burns turned the men away. However, the men felt uncomfortable by being shunned publicly in front of others for no real reason other than being men.

  1. Based on the mens’ claims and similar lawsuits Ms. Burns said she does not believe the men were at the event to truly network.

Again, regardless of what she believes, Ms. Burns will never know whether the men were at the event to truly network because she refused to let them in. However, we do know that the men prepaid to attend the event, and they would have attended the event if not turned away by Ms. Burns.

  1. She asserts, “Because Chic CEO helps women does not mean we hurt men.”

All Californians who truly believe in equality were hurt by turning the men away at the door, especially all Californian men. We know there are many well-meaning, decent, and caring people in the state, who have diligently fought for civil rights, who would be equally hurt had their sons, husbands, fathers, uncles, nephews, grandsons, and other men they cared about, been similarly discriminated against.

  1. Burns says, “Men are a very big part of what we do and we need men to help us close the pay gap, end violence against us, and help us in our quest for equality.”

The pay gap and violence against “us” have nothing to do with the event but the issue of “equality” certainly does. Regardless, the plethora of real social science research (versus groundless “advocacy research”) firmly establishes that (1) men suffer substantially more violence than women and (2) only a minute amount of the pay gap may be due to sex discrimination. Those knowledgeable in the pay gap debate also understand that it works in favor of women in many high paying soft job occupations. Making such a statement, turning men away from the event, treating them like second-class citizens, is bizarrely hypocritical and without question unequal.

Additionally, women are a disproportionate majority in health, education, finance, social services, and other well-paying soft-job occupations. Women typically earn more than do men in social services, industrial engineering, art history, all other engineering disciplines, construction and business analytics, among other soft-job occupations. Surely, networking mixers to encourage more men to take part in those fields are needed, but not at the exclusion of women, which would be counterproductive, increase the divide between men and women, and is illegal in California, and rightly so.

  1. Burns went on, “In no way shape or form does anyone in my company have an attitude of us versus them.”

This appears to be an unnecessary misdirectional insinuation. Neither do any of the three men, nor does Attorney Rava or NCFM have an attitude of us versus them, unless as it applies to those who indignantly demand special privilege for no good reason other than their sex (gender).

  1. For some odd reason Ms. Burns takes a strong exception with the use of disabled Veterans in the complaint against her. She says, “…the term disabled Veterans does not apply to just men and it’s quite offensive in and of itself. There are many many disabled Veterans that are women and I hope these individuals never use that term to describe only men again.”

We all are keenly aware many female Veterans are disabled; regrettably, some have also lost their lives. That said, the complaint deliberately has the term “disabled combat veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.” The Pentagon had not approved women in combat roles during those wars, which in no way suggests that other military women in those conflicts were not injured or killed.

One of the complainants in this case is a disabled Veteran; two served in the military, and two of the three are Board Members of a Veteran’s organization of which all three are founding members. In fact, another founding board member is a retired female Army Major. No Veterans are turned away from our programs, services, and events based on their sex (gender), a truth Ms. Burns and Chic CEO can never share.

If Ms. Burns served in the military, we thank her for her service, but not for turning away those who served, especially the disabled male Veteran (which was demeaning and stressful, triggered a PTSD episode, and was quite offensive in and of itself).

  1. Burns says that she felt shocked, heartbroken and bullied by the lawsuit. She then again talked of the importance of men in fostering innovation, fixing our economy, and building a better business culture. “Men are really, really important for what we do.”

Ms. Burns could have avoided being shocked, heartbroken and bullied had she let the men in. In fact, had she done so, there would be no need for any of this. Good things could have happened. All of us may have benefited. Chic CEO and organizations with which the men are involved could have developed working relationships. Allowing the men to take part could have moved us forward toward a better more inclusive business culture while creating other opportunities, including fostering innovation and maybe even fixing our economy. None of that happened, not because the invited prepaid men came to the event, but because Ms. Burns turned them away. The fact is, shunning the men detracted from the goals of Chic CEO as stated by Ms. Burns in her YouTube video (both and either of them).

  • At the end of the video, Ms. Burns asks that listeners sign a petition to revise the Unruh Civil Rights Act because it “was designed to fight real discrimination and not to be exploited against minorities.”

In reality, the Unruh Civil Rights Act applies to all Californians, and has since its inception. Turning the men away from the event was real discrimination. No minorities were exploited, though a minority owned business was held accountable for violating the law. Members of a protected class have no special license to discriminate against anyone similarly protected or not.


  1. In one or more related news articles, or elsewhere, Ms. Burns apparently claimed the men arrived late:

One of the men, who prepaid to reserve space, arrived early while the ticket sales table was being set up. The two other men who prepaid arrived shortly afterwards while other women were entering, signing in and or purchasing tickets ($25 at the door). There are time stamped photos taken when two of the men arrived (which was after the first man. We are not publishing the photos because of safety concerns).

  1. In one or more related news articles, or elsewhere, Ms. Burns reportedly claimed the men were dressed inappropriately, if not shoddily.

The men came in the cloths they wear during their normal business day, as apparently did women attending the after work event. The men knew of no published dress code for the event. All of the men had attended many other similar events in similar attire and never been turned away. They knew of no reason to dress differently.

In sum, the men prepaid to reserve space for the event, they were invited, the event was not over capacity, and they were not late or inappropriately dressed. The men were specifically denied attendance because it was a women only event and because they are men.


The landing page of the petition shows, “WOMEN VC Stand up and Stand Out,” subtitle “PROTECT WOMEN ENTREPRENEAURS AND COMMUNITIES FROM “EQUALITY-SEEKERS.”

Under “Timeline,” there is an August 7 appeal that says exactly, “There are a lot of businesses running and supporting female-only goods and services. All of them may be attacked for discriminating men under Unruh Civil Rights Act. LET’S MAKE A CHANGE!”

Whoever wrote that surely meant to say selling goods and services only to women. Either way, we disagree. Most businesses do not discriminate against anyone, they are busy trying to make a profit selling their goods and services to whomever will buy them. There are tens of thousands of businesses in California, the sheer number of which makes the dramatic statement meaningless.

The petition says exactly, “Just recently, Stephanie Burns, CEO of Chic CEO, an online resource for female entrepreneurs — bringing how-to information, tools and community to women starting businesses, has finished up settling a lawsuit with men on violating their civil rights for not letting them enter the overbooked event for women entrepreneurs.”

The petition accurately states the event was for women but incorrectly states the event was overbooked, as proven above. Julian L. Zegelman, at the law firm of Velton Zegelman P.C., is shown on the website as Women VC’s attorney for this matter, but Mr. Zegelman told attorney Rava that was not true, that he is not Women VC’s attorney for this matter. Clearly, issues exist with the creators of the website and petition.

As of 4:40 p.m., August 24, 2015 there were 96 comments on the petition page. Many supported the petition for reasons like “patriarchal bullying is infuriating to me, this kind of lawsuit is a waste of time, I’m outraged, it is important to stand up for what’s right,” and, my favorite, “People like Al Rava and Harry Crotch [sic] need to be stopped.”

It is never a waste of time to stand up for what is right or to stand against outrageously bullying Me-ism. Well meaning people like Mr. Rava, I, and many others will not stop, we will stand tall for equal rights as long as we breathe. People, who support this petition, oppose equal treatment. In the bold capped letters at the top of the petition page, it says women and communities need protection from “EQUALITY SEEKERS.” Unbelievable! Is the future you want, for you and your loved ones, one of inequality, separate but equal, men versus women?

Fortunately, many of the comments at the petition site offered supporting rationale for our position. Here are a few:

“Discrimination is wrong even if a women is discriminating against men. Burns turned away struggling male entrepreneurs because she said that only women need a women only place and don’t feel safe to share if men are around. Feminist attorney Gloria Allred has made millions off of busting “Men’s Only Clubs” now women have their own clubs and don’t want to share success secrets with men. It is only fair and in the spirit of equality that gender should not be an issue anymore. Feminism has no place with equality, it is oppression of men and it causes divisiveness between genders,” by Robert Collins.

How is “women-only networking” not discrimination? It seems these days feminists are all about gender supremacism rather than equality,” by GS A

“Seriously, ladies? I’m an older woman who fought for those rights back in the 60s and 70s, not so you could be apart but so you could be part of. Not so you could exclude men, but so you could be included. Not so you could have special rights, so you could have the same rights. Public forums are “PUBLIC”, you can’t exclude anyone, nor should you. If you’re doing a good job and your events are over-subscribed, that’s great. Hold it in a bigger venue or hold more of the them, don’t break the same laws, we fought so hard to get for the benefit of all,” by rstsummers.

“You don’t get to change the equality laws just because you want to given women discriminatory support. The laws exist for a reason. To stop people like you, from putting one gender over another,” by Susan Bridge.

“Equal access means a just and fair society where opportunity knows no boundaries,” by Deanna Kosaraju.

“I am a Pi Beta Phi sister to Stephanie and fellow new entrepreneur with Secret Direct outside of being a professional occupational therapist and mother. I love working with both men and women, but there is something to be said for the sisterhood of creating equality between the sexes,” by Rebecca Rieker.


National Coalition of Men Secretary Al Rava, Esq. has been largely responsible for stopping discrimination against men in the California at great risk to his safety, health, and profession. Al has been subjected to threats, undue criticism and ridicule because of his unrelenting stand against the discrimination of men in public accommodations. Mr. Rava is a true civil rights advocate and hero.

Over the last 15 or so years, Mr. Rava, on behalf of many others, filed over 150 lawsuits against businesses wrongly discriminating against men and women. Several of the lawsuits resulted in landmark court decisions that clarified and or established related laws. Aside from those lawsuits, Mr. Rava on behalf on NCFM has sent many letters to California businesses or governmental agencies advising them that several California laws prohibit discriminatory treatment of men and women.

Typically, such businesses charged male consumers more than female consumers for the same goods or services, or excluded male consumers – all based solely on the consumers’ sex. While there were a few repeat offenders, over time, all the businesses sued or sent letters stopped their illegal discrimination. Those who complain wrongly believe that discrimination based on gender is acceptable.

To paraphrase Mr. Rava, his clients and other California attorneys, through their successful works with the California Legislature, the Governor, the California Department of Justice, Department of Fair Employment & Housing (“DFEH”) and other California administrative agencies, and the California courts, have almost put an end to the proliferation of sex-based promotions and events by California businesses that charged consumers different prices for the same goods or services, or that excluded one sex or the other – all based solely on the consumer’s sex, which was a huge undertaking and huge civil rights victory.

See, the press release by the Consumer Attorneys of California calling Mr. Rava’s victory at the California Supreme Court in the landmark Unruh Civil Rights Act case of Angelucci v Supper Club 41 Cal 4th 160. “a significant civil rights victory.” Angelucci held that women, people of color, members of the LGBT community, and other discrimination victims did not have to first confront the discriminating business and affirmatively assert their right to equal treatment in order to have standing to file an Unruh Civil Rights Act claim. Also is a Gaming Establishment Adisory Letter by former California Attorney General Jerry Brown about the illegality of no-men-allowed poker tournaments, and a DFEH brochure about the illegality of Ladies’ Night promotions in California – both of which Mr. Rava was instrumental in getting published.

Mr. Rava also represented women in Unruh Civil Rights Act sex discrimination cases;  for example, in a class action lawsuit pending in Los Angeles County Superior Court against a Tony Roma’s restaurant for its recurring sex-based pricing promotion, as the complaint includes women and men as the putative class members.


In the original version of this article, I wrote that NCFM has never filed an Unruh Civil Rights Act lawsuit, which is incorrect. Marc Angelucci, another of our attorneys and NCFM Vice President, later explained that years ago NCFM was a plaintiff in at least one lawsuit, maybe two, though we ended up dismissing the lawsuits early on.

Regardless, NCFM has never filed an Unruh Civil Rights Act lawsuit under my signature as NCFM President. Although under my signature along with Mr. Rava’s guidance, we have sent advisory letters to various businesses. They were not threats as has been suggested more than once. We had great success with this approach.

We sent a letter to All Nippon Airlines when it proposed women-only restrooms on their airplanes.  We received a thank you letter and APA rescinded the proposal.

Another letter was sent to the Professional Golf Association (PGA) when it offered a women-only luncheon during a major golf tournament, which featured San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis as the featured speaker. Ironically, Ms. Dumanis is the county’s chief law enforcement officer. I received a phone call from a PGA attorney who seemed amused and appreciative. I keep forgetting to find his name and call him for a donation since we may have saved the PGA considerable aggravation. We saved Ms. Dumanis embarrassment too. The event became gender inclusive and to our knowledge, no other PGA event in California has since offered a women-only event during a PGA tournament.

Another letter went to the promoter of a women-only bicycle ride event, a letter that the promoters exploited. The promoters vilified us, garnered more recognition for their event, and caused childish threats against us. They were in no way publically appreciative for saving them from possible liability. Nevertheless, we have not heard of a later women-only bicycle ride in California.

Most recently, we sent a letter to the City of Glendale on publicly funded self-defense classes for women-only, wherein many people agreed with our position, including the Glendale News Press Editorial Board. The city begrudgingly offered a class for men. Both men and women are victims of violence, men more so than women, so both sexes benefit from such training.

To my knowledge, every business sued or sent a letter stopped the unlawful discrimination, which is a good thing. Not only that, many are appreciative.

Some have said that NCFM and its members have been involved with Unruh Civil Rights Act or other lawsuits against self-defense classes, free mammograms, or businesses offering gifts to women on “Mother’s Day,” which is false. Nor has there been a Unruh Civil Rights Act lawsuit against, or a letter directed at, anyone for providing free mammograms on Mother’s Day or on any other day. To my knowledge, no member of NCFM has ever been involved in any related lawsuit.

One of our Board Members noted, “… the Unruh Civil Rights Act was big in the 70’s, when all kinds of lawsuits were filed against dry cleaners, haircut places, etc. for businesses discriminating against women. Where was this outrage and name calling then against women’s rights like there is here against Mr. Rava, the Unruh Civil Rights Act, and to some degree NCFM?”


Ms. Burns generated some sympathetic media attention resulting in a few articles primarily targeted at NCFM Secretary Al Rava. Reporters have thus far sympathized with Ms. Burns. Regardless, even good reporters cannot report the truth if they do not know what it is. Unfortunately, the misrepresentations explained above, ideology and advocacy journalism seem to have discolored the articles linked below.

The links to articles at the end of this article are from worse to better, the first worse being from Unfortunately, such articles bring out anonymous man-hater commentators who know nothing about our issues, think all women are victims of something or other, and could care less whether men are poorly treated. Such ignorance is disheartening and turns unduly ugly by those resorting to violence or name-calling. At one point, Raw Story deleted comments by Allen Candelore, one of the plaintiffs! Mr. Candelore rigorously refuted many of the misandric comments with common sense, courtesy, facts and the truth. He was open to the fact he was a plaintiff and pointed out the article was misleading, which may be why his comments were deleted.

On August 24, 2015, Mr. Rava sent the Raw Story an email explaining that their article contained numerous false statements. Raw Story responded with, “We have taken this story offline for the time being until we can research your claims further.” As of this typing, the URL garners “Page Not Found – The page you are looking for doesn’t seem to exist.”


It is absurd in this day and age – when women are self-defense trainers, police officers, Army Rangers, judges, US Senators, mayors, scientists, astronauts, corporate leaders and thrive in other demanding occupations – to believe men and women cannot be safe, comfortable and benefit from each other in business social networking mixers in broad daylight at an upscale restaurant. Holding one-sex-only events is against the best interests of the citizens of California, contrary to sound public policy and law, and is otherwise offensive.

Moreover, Attorney Rava and the three men through their lawsuit are the catalyst that brought awareness to Chic CEO Clients who should now know it is illegal in California for businesses to discriminate against persons because of their sex (gender).

It is truly unfortunate that one business owner who wrongly discriminated against men (and a few unaffected sympathetic followers) want to dismantle a law that protects all California citizens from undue discrimination. Reverting to entitlement driven Me-ism is not good business practice or sound public policy.

We strongly support anyone’s right to petition the government for their grievances.  In fact, NCFM was instrumental several years ago in changing California law to prevent paternity fraud. We spent much time over the past two years promoting paternity-fraud reform legislation in Washington too. Several of our members are deeply involved with discrimination against men and their right to redress on college campuses and in the military. For decades, we have been active with reform issues about child welfare and relationship violence. We have a pending appellate case against the Selective Service System for failure to require women to register.

The online petition is another irrational, emotion driven, divide and conquer giant step backwards. Allow me a little creative license please, be forewarned, some amongst us don’t much like “EQUALITY-SEEKERS.” As President of NCFM, I will do my utmost to continue seeking fair treatment for all of us. I trust you will too. As another of our Advisers just reminded me, “Equality should mean equal rights and opportunities for both genders but also equal responsibilities and consequences for breaking the law.”

AVFM Note: The Raw Story article has been taken off line. Our sources indicate that they took it down after being challenged on the many falsehoods and inaccuracies printed therein. AVFM is suprised, not at lies from Raw Story, but at the fact that they backed down. More on this to come.

unruh civil

NOTE: first published 8/12/2015. It has been revised, and may be revised several more times as this story develops or dies.

Recommended Content