DJ # 202-1-14

I. Background

1.    The parties to this Settlement Agreement ("Agreement") are the United States of America and Johnson Enterprises, LLC, d/b/a McDonald’s in Huntsville, Alabama, an Alabama limited liability company ("Johnson”).

2.     This matter was initiated by a complaint, dated May 23, 2002, filed with the United States Department of Justice (“the Department”) or (“United States”), against Johnson in Huntsville, Alabama. The complaint was investigated by the Department under the authority granted by section 308(b) of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12188(b). The Complainant, Michael I. Lingenfelter (“Lingenfelter”) has a disability and, as a result, he uses a service animal. Lingenfelter alleges that on May 22, 2002, he along with his service animal and his wife entered Johnson to have breakfast. Lingenfelter further alleges that he and his wife were initially denied service at Johnson because of his service animal. Specifically, Lingenfelter alleges that the manager on duty stated “only blind people could have [service] dogs with them.”

3.     Johnson asserts that its policy in May 2002, was to allow individuals with disabilities who require the assistance of service animals to enter and to eat at its restaurant. Johnson also alleges that Lingenfelter refused to indicate that his dog was a service animal. Further, Johnson asserts that Lingenfelter was rude to its employees and uncooperative.

4.     Johnson’s position is that it did not violate any provision of the ADA or the rights of the Complainant, and that this settlement agreement shall not constitute an adjudication and/or a finding on the merits of the allegations, and shall not be used as evidence of liability, res judicata, or collateral estoppel in any other legal proceeding against Johnson.

5.     The parties enter into this settlement agreement in order to avoid unnecessary and costly litigation and hereby agree as follows:

II. Title III Coverage and Findings

6.     Johnson is a restaurant and is therefore a place of public accommodation as defined in section 301(7)(B) of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12181, and its implementing regulation, 28 C.F.R. § 36.104.

7.     The ADA requires that public accommodations make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures, to permit the use of service animals by people with disabilities. 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(c). Although some States have programs to certify service animals, public accommodations may not insist on proof of State certification before permitting the entry of a service animal to a place of public accommodation.U.S. Department of Justice, Title III Technical Assistance Manual, § III -4.2300.

8.     The Complainant, Michael Lingenfelter, is a person with a disability within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 12102(2) and 28 C.F.R. § 36.104.

III. Actions to be Taken by Johnson

9.     Within thirty (30) days of the effective date of this Agreement, Johnson shall provide each employee with a copy of its existing Service Animal Policy which is in Johnson’s Operations and Training Manual: May, 2001. In addition, Johnson agrees to post, in a conspicuous location, in its restaurant, a copy of its Service Animal Policy (See Appendix A) and its “Service Animals Welcome” sign.

10.     In addition, Johnson agrees not to modify its existing Service Animal Policy without the prior written consent of the Department.

11.     Within sixty (60) days of the effective date of this Agreement, Johnson agrees to provide one (1) hour of training to all employees with customer service responsibilities on general discrimination issues, the ADA, and its Service Animal Policy.

12.     Johnson also agrees to train new employees during its new employee orientation on the ADA and on Johnson’s policy that individuals with disabilities who require the assistance of service animals are allowed to enter and to be served at Johnson’s restaurant.

13     Johnson hereby agrees to pay to Lingenfelter a total of Two Hundred and Fifty Dollars ($250.00) as full and final settlement of the Complaint filed in this case.

14.     Within fifteen (15) days of the signing of this agreement, Johnson shall mail to Lingenfelter, a check made payable in the amount of Two Hundred and Fifty dollars ($250.00), with a copy to counsel for the Department of Justice. Upon receipt of that copy, the Department will close its investigation against Johnson.

IV. Implementation and Enforcement of this Agreement

15.     The Attorney General is authorized, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 12188(b)(1)(B), to bring a civil action to enforce title III of the ADA in any situation where the Attorney General finds a pattern or practice of discrimination or an issue of general public importance. In consideration of the terms of this Agreement, the Attorney General agrees to refrain from filing a civil suit under title III in this matter based on the facts set forth in paragraph 1 through 4, above, except as provided in paragraph 17.

16.     This settlement agreement resolves all claims that were or could have been made against Johnson by the Department in this complaint.

17.     The United States may review compliance with this Agreement at any time and may enforce this Agreement if the United States believes that it or any requirement thereof has been violated. If the United States believes that this Agreement or any portion of it has been violated, it will raise its concern(s) with Johnson and the parties will attempt to resolve the concern(s) in good faith. The United States will give Johnson thirty (30) days from the date it notifies Johnson of any breach of this Agreement to cure that breach, prior to instituting any court action to enforce this Agreement and/or the provisions of title III of the ADA.

18.     Failure by the United States to enforce any provision or deadline of this Agreement shall not be construed as a waiver of its right to enforce other provisions or deadlines of this Agreement.

19.     Copies of this Agreement, and any information contained in it may be made available to any person at any time. The Department and Johnson shall provide copies of this Agreement to any person upon request.

20.     This Agreement shall be binding on Johnson, and its agents and employees. In the event Johnson seeks to transfer or assign all or part of its interest in any facility covered by this Agreement, and the successor or assign intends on carrying on the same or similar use of the facility, as a condition of sale Johnson shall obtain the written accession of the successor or assign to any obligations remaining under this Agreement for the remaining term of this Agreement.

21.     If any term of this Agreement is determined by any court to be unenforceable, the other terms of this Agreement shall nonetheless remain in full force and effect.

22.     This document constitutes the entire Agreement between the parties relating to Department of Justice No. 202-1-14 and no other statement, promise, or agreement, either written or oral, made by either party or agents of any party, that is not contained in this written Agreement, including its attachments, shall be enforceable.

23.     This Agreement does not affect the continuing responsibility of Johnson to comply with all aspects of the ADA.

24     This Settlement Agreement shall remain in effect for one year from the effective date. The effective date of this Agreement is the date of the last signature below.

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

d/b/a McDonald’s, Huntsville, Alabama


Steve A. Johnson
McDonald’s Restaurant
4965 Memorial Parkway
Huntsville, AL 35810

Assistant Attorney
General for Civil Rights

John L. Wodatch, Chief
Philip L. Breen, Special Legal Counsel
Allison J. Nichol, Deputy Chief
Felicia L. Sadler, Trial Attorney
Disability Rights Section - NYA
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
P.O. Box 66738
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530-6738
(202) 307-0663

Date:           1/26/06           Date:           2/10/06          

Gerald L. Maatman, Jr., Esq.
55 East Monroe Street, Suite 4200
Chicago, Illinois 60603
(312) 269-8965
Date:           1/9/06          



Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), restaurants are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. Johnson’s policy is to permit individuals with disabilities to bring their service animals into its restaurant and in any areas where customers are generally allowed.

A service animal is any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for himself or herself. No particular type of certification or documentation is required for an animal to be considered a service animal under the ADA. Seeing-eye dogs are one type of service animals used by some individuals who are blind. This is the type of service animal with which most people are familiar, but other types include animals that:

• Alert people with hearing impairments to sounds.
• Pull wheelchairs or carry or pick up things for people with mobility impairments.
• Assist people with mobility impairments with balance.

If a Johnson’s employee is not sure if the animal is a pet or a service animal, that employee may ask the individual with the animal, “is this a pet?” In addition, a Johnson’s employee may ask for an explanation of the work the animal is trained to perform. However, a Johnson’s employee is not permitted to ask the individual with the service animal about his or her disability. Also, a Johnson’s employee should not touch, feed, talk to, or make noises at the animal. If the animal barks, growls, or otherwise forgets its manners, it may be performing its job by warning its owner of an oncoming seizure or other danger. If a Johnson’s employee thinks the animal is threatening other customers or acting destructively, that employee should find out what’s really going on before taking action. If appropriate the Johnson’s employee should ask the person to control the animal or remove it.

If other customers complain about the service animal, the Johnson’s employee should explain that it is providing assistance as important as a wheelchair, hearing aid, or glasses, and that it is legal for a service animal to accompany an individual with a disability in public places, including restaurants.

October 09, 2008