SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT

REGARDING ACCESS FOR INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES

TO THE GREAT CHINESE BUFFET

DJ# 202-58-92


I.      BACKGROUND

1.     The parties to this Settlement Agreement are the United States of America, Great Chinese Buffet, Rien Lin, and Tracy Lin. Great Chinese Buffet is a privately owned restaurant with locations at 61259 Southgate Parkway, Cambridge, Ohio 43725 and 1022 Ashton Drive, Morgantown, West Virginia 26508. Rien Lin and Tracy Lin are Owners of the Great Chinese Buffet. In addition, Rien and Tracy Lin are both Operators of the Cambridge, Ohio location and Rien Lin is the Operator of the Morgantown, West Virginia location.

2.     This Agreement is reached under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§12181 et seq. and its implementing regulation, 28 C.F.R. Part 36, to resolve an investigation initiated by the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Ohio after the Cambridge Police Department informed it about a citizen named Donald Lynn who alleged that employees of the Great Chinese Buffet made him leave the restaurant at 61259 Southgate Parkway because he was accompanied by his service animal.

3.     Great Chinese Buffet is a place of public accommodation under 42 U.S.C. § 12181(7)(B) and 28 C.F.R. § 36.104. Rien Lin and Tracy Lin as Owners and Operators of the restaurant are likewise public accommodations covered by Title III of the ADA. 42 U.S.C. § 12181(7)(B) and 28 C.F.R. § 36.104.

II.     FACTS

4.     The United States found in its investigation that on Sunday, March 27, 2011, complainant Donald Lynn, who is blind and was accompanied by his service animal, was in the Great Chinese Buffet lobby waiting to be seated when the hostess said "no dogs allowed." Mr. Lynn told the hostess he was vision impaired and that the dog was his service animal. The hostess asked for proof that the dog was a service animal. The complainant told her to look at the tag which showed that the dog was a service animal. After conferring with a senior employee, the hostess again said the restaurant would not serve Mr. Lynn accompanied by his dog. The complainant said the dog was his service animal and that he was required by law to be served. Nonetheless, the hostess told Mr. Lynn he would have to leave, and she eventually escorted him from the restaurant lobby into the parking lot.

5.     As a result of its investigation, the United States has determined that Mr. Lynn was denied equal access to the goods and services of the Great Chinese Buffet when it failed to modify its policies, practices, and procedures to permit the use of a service animal by an individual with a disability. 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a); 28 C.F.R. § 36.302.

6.     The parties have determined their respective interests can be met without engaging in litigation, and this Agreement is made to provide access to persons with disabilities and avoid the costs as well as the burdens of litigation.

III.     ACTIONS TO BE TAKEN BY THE GREAT CHINESE BUFFET, RIEN LIN, AND TRACY LIN

7.     Consistent with the law, Great Chinese Buffet, Rien Lin, and Tracy Lin shall not discriminate against any individual on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of the Great Chinese Buffet by excluding or providing unequal treatment to persons with disabilities who use service animals.

8.     Great Chinese Buffet shall adopt, maintain, and enforce the policy attached as Attachment A to this Settlement Agreement, which covers treatment of customers using service animals. Within 15 days after the effective date of this Agreement, Rien Lin and Tracy Lin shall provide a copy of the policy in Attachment A to all employees of Great Chinese Buffet and shall post a copy of the policy in the area of the restaurants where employees are given information on company policy. The policy will be communicated to employees in English and in any additional language(s) necessary for all employees to understand the policy.

9.     Within 60 days after the effective date of this Agreement, Rien Lin and Tracy Lin will also develop or procure a sign, not less than 6" x 9" with a minimum font of 24, stating "The Great Chinese Buffet welcomes customers with disabilities who are accompanied by their service animals," which will also include this message in Braille. The sign will be installed next to the entry door of both restaurants at a height of 60 inches from the ground to the centerline of the sign.

10.     Great Chinese Buffet, Rien Lin, and Tracy Lin shall pay damages of FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS ($5,000.00) by check made payable to "Donald Lynn." 42 U.S.C. § 12188(b)(2)(B). This payment will be delivered with this signed Agreement to Assistant U.S. Attorney John Stark, United States Attorney's Office, 303 Marconi Boulevard, Suite 200, Columbus, OH 43215 for further delivery to Mr. Lynn. The liability for damages is a joint and several liability of Great Chinese Buffet, Rien Lin, and Tracy Lin.

11.     Great Chinese Buffet, Rien Lin, and Tracy Lin shall pay a civil penalty of TWO THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS ($2,500.00) by check made payable to the "United States of America." 42 U.S.C. § 12188(b)(2)(C). This payment will be delivered with this signed Agreement to Assistant U.S. Attorney John Stark, United States Attorney's Office, 303 Marconi Boulevard, Suite 200, Columbus, OH 43215. The liability for this penalty shall be a joint and several liability of Great Chinese Buffet, Rien Lin, and Tracy Lin.

IV.     ENFORCEMENT AND MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS

12.     In consideration for this Agreement, the United States agrees to refrain from filing any civil lawsuit based on the incident that happened March 27, 2011. The United States reserves, however, the right to file a civil lawsuit to enforce this Agreement under the terms of paragraph 13.

13.     If Great Chinese Buffet, Rien Lin, and/or Tracy Lin fail to take any of the actions described in Section III of this Agreement under the terms and time periods specified, without obtaining sufficient advance written approval from the United States, such failure will be a subsequent violation under 42 U.S.C. § 12188(b)(2)(C)(ii) and 28 C.F.R. § 36.504(a)(3)(ii), and Great Chinese Buffet, Rien Lin, and Tracy Lin will correct this noncompliance within 30 days of being notified of the noncompliance and shall be liable to the United States of America for a civil penalty of at least $2,000 for each required action not taken in addition to any appropriate compensatory damages caused by the failure to comply.

14.     Failure by the United States Department of Justice to enforce this entire Agreement, or any provision thereof, with regard to any deadline or any other provision will not be construed as a waiver of its right to do so for other deadlines and provisions of this Agreement.

15.     The United States Attorney's Office does not intend any aspect of this Agreement to evidence a legal interpretation of the ADA or any state accessibility law.

16.     This Agreement is a public document. A copy of this document, or any information contained in it, may be made available to any person.

17.     This Agreement is binding on Great Chinese Buffet, Rien Lin, and Tracy Lin. This Agreement is also binding on any successors in interest to Great Chinese Buffet, Rien Lin, and Tracy Lin, and each has a duty to notify all such successors in interest.

18.     This Agreement is the entire agreement between the United States of America and Great Chinese Buffet, Rien Lin, and Tracy Lin. No other statement, promise, or agreement, either written or oral, made by either party or agents of either party, not in this written Agreement will be enforceable.

19.     This Agreement is limited to the facts in it. This Agreement does not purport to remedy any other potential violations of the ADA or any other Federal law. This Agreement does not purport to list all violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act that may have occurred at the Great Chinese Buffet.

20.     The individuals signing this Agreement represent that they are authorized to bind the parties to this Agreement.

21.     Notices of any kind required or contemplated under this Agreement shall be made by mailing the notice via United States Postal Service, first class certified mail, return receipt requested. Notice will be considered given on the date of receipt identified on the return receipt. Notices to the United States Attorney's Office shall be mailed to the address in the signature block below of the undersigned Assistant U.S. Attorney. Notices to the Great Chinese Buffet, Rien Lin, or Tracy Lin will be mailed to Great Chinese Buffet, 61259 Southgate Parkway, Cambridge, Ohio 43725.

22.     Deadlines listed in this Agreement that fall on weekends or holidays will be extended to the next business day.

23.     The effective date of this Agreement is the latest-dated signature below. The Agreement will remain in effect until three years after the Effective Date.

For the United States of America:

CARTER M. STEWART
United States Attorney

__________________________
John J. Stark
Assistant United States Attorney
303 Marconi Boulevard, Suite 200
Columbus, OH 43215

 

 

Dated: 08-5-11

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For Great Chinese Buffet:

________________________
Rien Lin
Owner and Operator, Great Chinese Buffet
1022 Ashton Drive
Morgantown, West Virginia 26508

 

Dated: 07-24-11

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_________________________
Tracy Lin
Owner and Operator, Great Chinese Buffet
2 Yorkshire Drive
Cambridge, Ohio 43725

Dated: 07-24-11

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ATTACHMENT A

POLICY REGARDING SERVICE ANIMALS
FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES

Great Chinese Buffet is committed to making reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and procedures to permit the use of service animals by persons with disabilities. Service animals play an important role in ensuring the independence of people with disabilities, and it is therefore our policy to welcome into our restaurant any animal that is individually trained to assist a person with a disability.

What is a Service Animal?

Service animals include any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for individuals with disabilities, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Service animals do not always have a harness, a sign, or a symbol indicating that they are service animals. A service animal is not a pet. Service animals assist people with disabilities in many different ways, such as:

Requirements with Regard to Service Animals:

Most of the time, people with disabilities who use service animals may be easily identified without any need for questioning. If we can tell by looking, it is our policy not to make an individual feel unwelcome by asking questions. If we are unsure whether an animal meets the definition of a service animal, it is our policy to ask the individual only two questions at the point that the individual seeks entry to the restaurant:

If the individual says yes to the first question and explains the work or tasks that the animal is trained to perform, we will welcome the person and service animal into the restaurant without asking any additional questions about his or her service animal. We will not ask an individual questions about his or her disability. We will not ask an individual to show a license, certification, or special ID card as proof of their animal's training. We must permit service animals to accompany individuals with disabilities to all areas of our restaurant normally used by customers or other members of the public and will treat individuals with service animals with the same courtesy and respect that Great Chinese Buffet affords to all of our customers.

Manager Responsibilities:

Great Chinese Buffet has the right to exclude a service animal from the restaurant if the dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it, or the dog is not housebroken. We will not exclude a particular service animal based on past experience with other animals or based on fear unrelated to an individual service animal's actual behavior. Each situation will be considered individually. When there is a legitimate reason to ask that a service animal be removed, staff must offer the person with the disability the opportunity to obtain goods or services without the animal's presence. Only an owner of Great Chinese Buffet or someone he or she designates can make the decision to exclude a service animal.