U.S. Department of Justice
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Disability Rights Section
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Enforcing the ADA:

A Status Report from the Department of Justice




January-March 2001

This Status Report covers the ADA activities of the Department of Justice during the first quarter (January-March) of 2001. This report, previous status reports, and a wide range of other ADA information are available through the Department’s ADA Home Page on the World Wide Web (see page 10). The symbol (**) indicates that the document is available on the .



INSIDE...

ADA Litigation
Formal Settlement Agreements
Other Settlements
Mediation
Technical Assistance
Other Sources of ADA Information
How to File Complaints

 

2001, Issue 1

 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a comprehensive civil rights law for people with disabilities. The Department of Justice enforces the ADA’s requirements in three areas --

Title I: Employment practices by units of State and local government

Title II: Programs, services, and activities of State and local government

Title III: Public accommodations and commercial facilities

 

I. Enforcement

     Through lawsuits and both formal and informal settlement agreements, the Department has achieved greater access for individuals with disabilities in hundreds of cases. Under general rules governing lawsuits brought by the Federal Government, the Department of Justice may not file a lawsuit unless it has first unsuccessfully attempted to settle the dispute through negotiations.

A. Litigation

     The Department may file lawsuits in Federal court to enforce the ADA and may obtain court orders including compensatory damages and back pay to remedy discrimination. Under title III the Department may also obtain civil penalties of up to $55,000 for the first violation and $110,000 for any subsequent violation.

1. Decisions

Supreme Court Bars Private Title I Suits for Damages Against States - The U.S. Supreme Court in Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama v. Garrett ruled that private individuals may not sue States for damages in employment discrimination suits under title I. The Court disagreed with a brief filed by the Department of Justice and ruled that by attempting to subject States to suits for damages Congress went beyond its constitutional authority to enforce the equal protection guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment. The court did note, however, that the Federal Government could still sue States for money damages under title I and that private individuals could sue State officials as long as they did not seek money damages. In addition, the court indicated that the limits on damages suits against States did not apply to suits against local governments such as cities and counties. The Court also did not rule on whether damages were available for the title II claims brought by the plaintiffs in Garrett.

D.C. Circuit Rules that Job Market Evidence is Needed to Show Substantial Limitation in Working - The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in Duncan v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority that evidence of the number and types of jobs in the local employment market is necessary to show that an unskilled manual laborer with a back injury is substantially limited in the major life activity of working. The plaintiff claimed that he was fired because of his back impairment in violation of title I and won a $250,000 jury verdict in the lower court. The plaintiff had limited education, training, and work skills and a history of performing unskilled heavy labor jobs involving "medium" and "heavy" lifting. A back injury left him unable to lift more than 20 pounds. The Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a joint brief in the court of appeals arguing that the plaintiff had introduced enough evidence for the jury to conclude that he was substantially limited in his ability to perform a class of jobs involving heavy manual labor and that there was no need for him to submit expert testimony or statistical evidence on the number of jobs from which he was excluded. The D.C. Circuit, however, overturned the jury award, ruling that there was not enough evidence for the jury to conclude that the plaintiff was a person with a disability under the ADA. It agreed that expert labor market testimony was not necessarily required, but that the plaintiff had failed to produce any evidence of the number and kinds of jobs in the local labor market that do not require heavy or medium lifting and for which he would still be qualified.

2. New lawsuits

     The Department initiated or intervened in the following lawsuits.

Title III

U.S. v. Norwegian Cruise Lines, Inc. - The Department filed suit against Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) alleging that it discriminated against several individuals who are blind. One complainant who booked a cruise with NCL traveled from his home in Denver, Colorado, to board the ship at Houston, Texas. When he arrived at the port, the ship's doctor informed him that he would not be allowed to board the ship because he was blind and he was traveling without an assistant. Two other complainants planned to spend their honeymoon on a NCL ship. After they paid the deposit, the cruise line sent them forms to sign acknowledging that because they were blind they were at special risk of injuring themselves and waiving any claims that they might have in the future against the cruise line. The complainants refused to sign, and NCL eventually agreed only nine days before the departure date to allow the complainants to go on the cruise without signing the forms. Because of this delay, the couple made alternative plans for their honeymoon fearing that they would not be permitted to board the cruise ship. NCL allegedly refused to return their $500 deposit. The lawsuit seeks changes in NCL policy to end discrimination against its customers with vision impairments and compensatory damages for the complainants.

3. Consent Decrees

     Some litigation is resolved at the time the suit is filed or afterwards by means of a negotiated consent decree. Consent decrees are monitored and enforced by the Federal court in which they are entered.

Titles I and II

Nored v. Weakley County Emergency Communications District - Weakley County, Tennessee and the Weakley County Emergency Communications District agreed to settle certain claims brought against them as part of the Department's lawsuit against the State of Tennessee, which challenges five state statutes mandating the blanket exclusion of individuals with "any apparent mental disorder" from various law enforcement jobs in the state. This absolute ban extends to any condition listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association, no matter how minor. The suit, in which the Department intervened, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee by two female 9-1-1 dispatchers employed by the Weakley County Emergency Communications District who had performed well on the job for years. They were subjected to psychological tests and removed from their positions because they were diagnosed respectively as "subject to emotional instability," and "overly reactive" and "at risk of impulse control difficulties." The county fired them under the State law even though it had not found either of them to be unable to perform their jobs or to pose a safety hazard. Under the consent decree, the county employer will pay $70,000 to the two plaintiffs, out of which $2,000 will be offered to five other dispatchers who were also subjected to psychological testing but who did not lose their jobs. Both defendants have also agreed to expunge all past records of psychological testing, to restrict future psychological testing to the application stage following a conditional offer of employment, and to strictly limit the scope of the testing to a determination of whether individuals can safely perform the essential functions of the jobs at issue. The consent decree does not resolve the Department's potential claims on behalf of two individuals who applied for positions as deputy sheriffs with Weakley County and who were rejected based on the results of their psychological tests. The Department also continues to litigate its claims against the State of Tennessee with respect to the unlawful statutes themselves.

United States v. Giorgio's Restaurant, Inc. - The Department resolved by consent decree a lawsuit it filed against Giorgio's Restaurant of Silver Spring, Maryland, for violations of title III physical accessibility requirements. The Department alleged that Giorgio's owner violated the ADA by removing a ramp between the restaurant's main dining area and a raised bar area and by failing to eliminate additional architectural barriers at the restaurant's entrance, in its dining room, and in its men's and women's toilet rooms. Under the settlement Giorgio's agreed to reinstall a ramp to the bar area, remove other architectural barriers, and pay $3500 in civil penalties.


Title III

** Department Reaches First Agreement on Stadium-style Movie Theaters - In a consent decree, the Department agreed not to sue United Artists Theater Circuit (UATC), one of the nation's largest theater chains, if UATC modifies its designs for newly constructed stadium-style theaters (and also for conventional theaters converted to stadium-style use) to follow certain criteria. Under these criteria, wheelchair users will sit at levels raised above the rows in front of them with sight lines similar to those that others enjoy. The criteria also require wheelchair seating in newly constructed theaters to have vertical viewing angles equal to or better than the best 50 percent of seats in a particular auditorium. The agreement is an amendment to an earlier 1996 consent decree between United Artists, the Department of Justice, and Disability Rights Advocates, a California advocacy group, under which UATC agreed to ensure the accessibility of its newly-constructed theaters (which at the time were of conventional rather than stadium-style design) and to remove barriers in existing theaters. The new agreement also allows for a five-year extension for completion of barrier removal in existing theaters with a pledge by United Artists to spend at least $250,000 per year on that effort.

B. Formal Settlement Agreements

     The Department sometimes resolves cases without filing a lawsuit by means of formal written settlement agreements.

Title I

North Kansas City, Missouri - The City of North Kansas City, Missouri, will pay $60,000 in damages and change its policies in order to resolve a discrimination complaint filed by a candidate for a firefighter/paramedic position who has insulin-dependent diabetes. The complaint was filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and referred to the Department of Justice for enforcement action. The complainant alleged that he was rejected for the position when the city learned of his disability. The complainant had been the city's top-ranked applicant and was approved for employment as a firefighter/paramedic by North Kansas City's own medical examiner. At the time he applied he was working as a firefighter/paramedic at the neighboring South Metro Fire Department.

Title II

Maquoketa, Iowa - The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa entered a settlement agreement to ensure direct access for TTY users to the Maquoketa, Iowa, 9-1-1 system. The agreement requires Maquoketa to acquire TTY's for each call-taking station, provide back-up service in case of an equipment failure, implement a policy of recognizing silent calls as potential TTY calls, and train call-takers in the proper handling of TTY calls.

St. Peters, Missouri - The Department entered an agreement with the City of St. Peters, successfully resolving a title II complaint alleging that a newly constructed recreation complex in suburban St.Louis failed to comply with the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. The city agreed to achieve full compliance with the Standards within three months by adding roll-in showers, accessible spectator seating areas in the natatorium, standard toilet stalls with grab bars and accessible hardware, accessible locker rooms and benches, insulated hot water pipes, raised mirrors and toilets at appropriate heights for persons with disabilities, and increased clear floor space where required.

** Project Civic Access, Bowie, Maryland - The Department signed its twenty-third agreement under Project Civic Access, a wide-ranging effort to ensure that cities, towns, and villages comply with the ADA. The agreement with Bowie, Maryland, followed a compliance review of the city's municipal building, museums, park and recreation areas, and polling places. It requires Bowie to provide program accessibility by making physical modifications to its facilities so that parking, routes into buildings and recreational areas, entrances, public telephones, restrooms, dressing and locker rooms, service counters, and drinking fountains are accessible. Bowie will provide room identification signs that are accessible to people who are blind or who have low vision and directional signs indicating the location of accessible features. It also agreed to revise its employee handbook, city museum brochure, and other materials to publicize the city's TTY number.

Title III

** Hospital Pays $130,000 in Damages for Not Providing Interpreter- The Department reached an agreement with the Davis Hospital and Medical Center in Layton, Utah resolving a complaint that the hospital failed to provide a sign language interpreter to two deaf individuals, a patient and his wife. It was alleged that because of the lack of an interpreter the couple received inadequate information about the patient's cancer care and treatment options. Because of this failure, the couple did not know how to administer the medications properly at home and complications developed, requiring the patient to return to the hospital. The lack of effective communication also meant that the patient did not know of the terminal nature of his condition and that he was denied the opportunity to talk to family members and friends before he died. In addition to paying $130,000 in damages to the patient's wife, the hospital agreed to establish a comprehensive program to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services to patients, their families, and their companions who are deaf or hard of hearing and annual training to hospital personnel and affiliated physicians.

Thousand Trails, Inc., Dallas, Texas - The Department signed a settlement agreement with Thousand Trails, Inc., doing business under the name of Yosemite Lakes Resort, to resolve a complaint that the company discriminated against a customer because she had a service dog. Thousand Trails operates 60 resorts and campgrounds in 20 states. Some accommodate recreational vehicles and others provide overnight rental accommodations in luxury resort locations. The agreement will result in nationwide training of the company's employees and changes in policy to ensure nondiscrimination. The company will prominently post signs welcoming people with service animals and will ensure that no surcharges are imposed and that staff will not require proof of disability or documentation of the animal's training. In addition, the company will pay the complainant $2,500 and provide her with a certificate entitling her and her family to stay for a week free of charge at any of the overnight rental accommodations in the United States.

Wayne Parker Realty, Madison, Mississippi - The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi entered a settlement agreement with the owner of Wayne Parker Realty requiring physical modifications to a newly constructed real estate office. Under the agreement the owner will install a switchback ramp at the front entrance; construct a paved van-accessible parking space and curb ramp; modify the public restrooms to provide accessible mirrors, toilet paper dispensers, grab bars, and lavatory hardware; widen all interior doors and doorways; and replace the double entrance doors with one 36-inch wide door.

Phoenix Metro RV Park, Phoenix, Arizona - The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Arizona entered into an agreement with Haugen Properties for barrier removal at the Phoenix Metro RV Park. The complainant alleged that the recreation center, exercise room, and bathrooms in the Park were inaccessible, and that there was not an accessible route of travel on the roadways of the facility due to the numerous speed bumps. The owner agreed to modify the entrances to the recreation center, exercise room, and bathrooms; insulate the hot water and drain pipes under the lavatories in the bathrooms; relocate one of the urinals in the men's restroom; and modify the speed bumps so that there is an accessible route of travel linking facilities throughout the RV Park.

C. Other Settlements

     The Department resolves numerous cases without litigation or a formal settlement agreement. In some instances, the public accommodation, commercial facility, or State or local government promptly agrees to take the necessary actions to achieve compliance. In others, extensive negotiations are required. Following are some examples of what has been accomplished through informal settlements.

Title II

A Texas county sheriff's office will provide detainees who are deaf, as well as citizens requiring assistance from the sheriff's office, with appropriate auxiliary aids, including sign language interpreters and TTY's, when necessary to ensure effective communication.

A Maine municipality agreed to install a ramp to provide access to a public beach.

A small Ohio city agreed to make its swimming program and its courtroom accessible. The city will install a lift and provide portable graduated stairs for access to the pool and modify the restroom facilities to include accessible toilet rooms and changing areas. In its courtroom it will install an assistive listening system, accessible seating, and appropriate signage.

A Connecticut town created two accessible parking spaces and an accessible route to a middle school gym used as a polling place.

Title III

Two Texas physicians developed written policies stating that they will provide sign language interpreters free of charge when necessary to ensure effective communication.

An Illinois physician resolved a complaint that he had denied an appointment to a wheelchair user by agreeing to post a notice of nondiscrimination in his offices, train his staff on the requirements of the ADA, and pay $500 to the local independent living center that filed the complaint.

A national financial services company instructed its staff to read loan documents upon request to any client who is blind or who has low vision and paid $2,500 in damages to the complainant.

An Alabama cab company that denied service to a wheelchair user distributed a written notice to all of its drivers informing them of their obligation to comply with the ADA and required each driver to acknowledge in writing that he or she had read the notice and understood it.

A Texas limousine company that did not have vehicles equipped with wheelchair lifts and did not make arrangements to transport patrons who needed accessible vehicles purchased a 21-passenger van with a wheelchair lift and paid $3,000 to the complainant, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

A Maryland hospital center agreed to pay a total of $37,000 in damages to an individual who, because of her service animal, was mistakenly prevented from accompanying her son into the hospital for an MRI procedure and to another individual who was barred by hospital policy from having her service animal present in her inpatient room. The hospital agreed to modify its absolute ban on service animals in inpatient rooms.

A Texas restaurant that allegedly denied entrance to an individual and his service animal agreed to post a notice notifying the public that service animals are welcome and to inform its staff of the ADA's requirements.


II. Mediation

     Under a contract with the Department of Justice, The Key Bridge Foundation receives referrals of complaints under titles II and III for mediation by professional mediators who have been trained in the legal requirements of the ADA. An increasing number of people with disabilities and disability rights organizations are specifically requesting the Department to refer their complaints to mediation. More than 450 professional mediators are available nationwide to mediate ADA cases. Over 80 percent of the cases in which mediation has been completed have been successfully resolved. Following are recent examples of results reached through mediation --


III. Technical Assistance

     The ADA requires the Department of Justice to provide technical assistance to entities and individuals with rights and responsibilities under the law. The Department encourages voluntary compliance by providing education and technical assistance to businesses, governments, and members of the general public through a variety of means. Our activities include providing direct technical assistance and guidance to the public through our ADA Information Line, ADA Home Page, and Fax on Demand, developing and disseminating technical assistance materials to the public, undertaking outreach initiatives, and coordinating ADA technical assistance governmentwide.

ADA Home Page

     An ADA home page is operated by the Department on the Internet’s World Wide Web (www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/index.html). The home page provides information about --

The home page also provides direct access to --

ADA Information Line

     The Department of Justice operates a toll-free ADA Information Line to provide information and publications to the public about the requirements of the ADA. Automated service, which allows callers to listen to recorded information and to order publications, is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. ADA specialists are available on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. and on Thursday from 1:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. (Eastern Time). Spanish language service is also available.

     To obtain general ADA information, get answers to technical questions, order free ADA materials, or ask about filing a complaint, please call:

800-514-0301 (voice)
800-514-0383 (TTY)

ADA Fax On Demand

     The ADA Information Line Fax Delivery Service allows the public to obtain free ADA information by fax 24 hours a day, seven days a week. By calling the number above and following the directions, callers can select from among 32 different ADA technical assistance publications and receive the information, usually within minutes, directly on their fax machines or computer fax/modems. A list of available documents and their code numbers may also be ordered through the ADA Information Line.

Publications and Documents

     Copies of the Department’s ADA regulations and publications, including the Technical Assistance Manuals for titles II and III, can be obtained by calling the ADA Information Line, visiting the ADA Home Page, or writing to the address listed below. All materials are available in standard print as well as large print, Braille, audiotape, or computer disk for persons with disabilities.

Disability Rights Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
P. O. Box 66738
Washington, D.C. 20035-6738

     Copies of the legal documents and settlement agreements mentioned in this publication can be obtained by writing to --

Freedom of Information/
Privacy Act Branch
Administrative Management Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
P.O. Box 65310
Washington, D.C. 20035-5310
Fax: 202-514-6195

     Currently, the FOI/PA Branch maintains approximately 10,000 pages of ADA material. The records are available at a cost of $0.10 per page (first 100 pages free). Please make your requests as specific as possible in order to minimize your costs.

     The FOI/PA Branch also provides access to ADA materials on the World Wide Web at www.usdoj.gov/crt/foia/records.htm. A link to search or visit this website is provided from the ADA Home Page.

Department Continues Outreach to Minority Communities -- The Department distributed copies of its video about the history of the disability rights movement, "My Country," and its consumer "Guide to Disability Rights Laws" to nearly four hundred churches in the African-American community.

 
Department Releases Two New Technical Assistance Publications -

**ADA Guide for Places of Lodging: Serving Guests Who Are Blind or Who Have Low Vision - (PDF version) The Department distributed copies of a new technical assistance document, "ADA Guide for Places of Lodging: Serving Guests Who Are Blind or Who Have Low Vision," to hundreds of hotels, motels, and other places of transient lodging. The 12-page document provides an overview of ADA obligations and information on a variety of issues concerning guests who are blind or who have low vision. These include arrival at the hotel, guest check-in and check-out, moving about the facilities, and how rooms and services can be set up to accommodate hotel guests who are blind or who have low vision. This brochure is available through the ADA Information line, the Fax on Demand Service (document number 3214) and the ADA Home Page.

Pictograms for Hospital Communications - The Department sent copies of a new two-volume publication entitled, "Pictograms for Hospital Communications," to more than six hundred hospitals and emergency treatment centers nationwide. Each volume - one in American Sign Language, and the other in Contact Language (also known as PSE) - contains pictograms designed to assist medical professionals in communicating with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. This project grew out of the Department's 1998 consent decree with 32 acute-care hospitals in Connecticut that established a statewide interpreter system. The agreement required the use of pictogram flash cards developed by the Department of Justice when sign language interpreters were not available. Additional copies of this publication are not currently available from the Department.



IV. Other Sources of ADA Information

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission offers technical assistance to the public concerning the employment provisions of title I of the ADA.

ADA publications
800-669-3362 (voice)
800-800-3302 (TTY)

ADA questions
800-669-4000 (voice)
800-669-6820 (TTY)

www.eeoc.gov

The Federal Communications Commission offers technical assistance to the public concerning the communication provisions of title IV of the ADA.

ADA publications and questions
888-225-5322 (voice)
888-835-5322 (TTY)

www.fcc.gov/cib/dro

U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration

ADA Assistance Line for regulations
and complaints
888-446-4511 (voice/relay)

The U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, or Access Board, offers technical assistance to the public on the ADA Accessibility Guidelines.

ADA publications and questions
800-872-2253 (voice)
800-993-2822 (TTY)

www.access-board.gov

The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund ADA Hotline is funded by the Department of Justice to provide technical assistance to the public on all titles of the ADA.

ADA technical assistance
800-466-4232 (voice & TTY)

www.dredf.org

The Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers are funded by the U.S. Department of Education through the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) in ten regions of the country to provide resources and technical assistance on the ADA.

ADA technical assistance
800-949-4232 (voice & TTY)

www.adata.org

Project ACTION is funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation to provide ADA information and publications on making transportation accessible.

Information on accessible transportation
800-659-6428 (voice/relay)
202-347-3066 (voice)
202-347-7385 (TTY)

www.projectaction.org

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is a free telephone consulting service funded by the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. It provides information and advice to employers and people with disabilities on reasonable accommodation in the workplace.

Information on workplace accommodation
800-526-7234 (voice & TTY)

http://janweb.icdi.wvu.edu/english

V. How to File Complaints

Title I

    Complaints about violations of title I (employment) by units of State and local government or by private employers should be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Call 800-669-4000 (voice) or 800-669-6820 (TTY) to reach the field office in your area.

Titles II and III

    Complaints about violations of title II by units of State and local government or violations of title III by public accommodations and commercial facilities should be filed with --

Disability Rights Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
Post Office Box 66738
Washington, D.C. 20035-6738

    If you wish the complaint to be referred to the Department’s ADA Mediation Program, please mark “Attention: Mediation” on the outside of the envelope.

 

The Attorney General has determined that publication of this periodical is necessary
in the transaction of the public business required by law of the Department of Justice.

 

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October 09, 2008