UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
JACKSON DIVISION

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,

Plaintiff

v.

MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY

Defendant.



CIVIL ACTION No.: 3:00CV377BN





SETTLEMENT ORDER



BACKGROUND

The United States filed this civil action to enforce title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq., against the Mississippi Department of Public Safety (“MDPS”). The Complaint alleges that MDPS discriminated against Mr. Ronnie Collins (“Mr. Collins”) on the basis of disability, in violation of title I of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a) and 12112(b)(5), by:

(a) discharging Mr. Collins from the training academy for new law enforcement officers because of his disability (insulin dependent diabetes) despite the fact that he is a qualified individual with a disability who is able to perform the essential functions of a law enforcement position within MDPS, with reasonable accommodations; and

(b) failing or refusing to make reasonable accommodations to Mr. Collins’ physical limitations, which were known to the Defendant, despite the fact that he is an otherwise qualified individual with a disability.

This matter was initiated by a charge filed by Mr. Collins with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC Charge No. 131-94-0391). The EEOC investigated the charge and concluded that there was reasonable cause to believe that MDPS had violated the ADA by refusing to reasonably accommodate Mr. Collins while he was a Cadet at the MDPS training Academy for new highway patrol troopers, and by terminating his employment because of his diabetes. The EEOC attempted to negotiate a conciliation agreement between MDPS and Mr. Collins. After conciliation efforts failed, the EEOC referred this matter to the U.S. Department of Justice (Department of Justice No. 205-41-6) with a recommendation that the United States file suit.

The Department of Justice investigated this charge pursuant to its statutory mandate to investigate alleged violations of title I of the ADA by State and local governments, 42 U.S.C. §12117(a). Based upon this investigation, the United States alleges that MDPS violated the ADA, among other ways, by denying Mr. Collins’ reasonable accommodation requests for additional food for his diabetes while at the Academy, and by terminating him when he became hypoglycemic because he did not get sufficient food.

MDPS has denied, and continues to deny, that it unlawfully discriminated against Mr. Collins. However, the parties have determined that their respective interests can be met without continuing to engage in protracted litigation to resolve this dispute and have, therefore, voluntarily entered into this Order.


AGREEMENT

Accordingly, it is hereby agreed by the parties and ordered by the Court as follows:

1. This Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 12117(a) and 2000e-5(f), and 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1345. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391, venue is proper in this District because the claim arose within this District. This Court has authority to grant equitable relief and monetary damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 12117(a) and 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202.

2. MDPS is a “covered entity” within the meaning of §101(2) of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. §12111(2), a “person” within the meaning of §101(7) of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. §12111(7), and an “employer” within the meaning of §101(5) of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. §12111(5).

3. Mr. Collins, who has insulin dependent diabetes, is an individual with a disability within the meaning of title I of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. §12102(2) and 29 C.F.R. §1630.2(g).


Specific Relief to be Offered to Mr. Collins by MDPS

4. On or before April 2, 2004, MDPS will offer, by letter to Mr. Collins, to pay $35,000.00 to Mr. Collins for any and all losses sustained as a result of MDPS’ alleged actions.

5. MDPS will send a copy of the executed Settlement Order, along with a letter (substantially similar to and including all information contained in Exhibit 1), and Release of All Claims (attached as Exhibit 2), and any other necessary administrative forms, to Mr. Collins. In order to accept the relief offered, Mr. Collins must return an executed Release of All Claims (Exhibit 2) to counsel for MDPS within 21 days of his receipt of MDPS’ offer letter.

6. MDPS will send counsel for the United States a copy of Exhibits 1 and 2 when they are sent to Mr. Collins. If Mr. Collins accepts MDPS’ offer to pay $35,000.00, MDPS will pay Mr. Collins that sum within 21 days of receipt of his signed Release of All Claims. The check will be sent to Mr. Collins by overnight mail.

7. MDPS will notify counsel for the United States when it has completed the actions described in paragraphs 4-6. If Mr. Collins accepts MDPS’ offer to pay $35,000.00, MDPS will provide counsel for the United States a copy of the check and transmittal letter sent to him.


Policies to be Adopted by MDPS

8. MDPS agrees that it will not discriminate in violation of the ADA on the basis of disability. Among other things, MDPS also agrees that, when an employee requests a reasonable accommodation, it will engage in an interactive process with that employee as required by title I of the ADA and consistent with the policy set out in Exhibit 3. The “interactive process” is an informal process between employer and employee intended to clarify what the individual needs and to identify the appropriate reasonable accommodation.

9. MDPS will distribute to incumbent troopers (by no later than May 30, 2004), and include in its Cadet Manual (for all future training Academies), its reasonable accommodation policy and procedure, which is attached as Exhibit 3. The policy explains the procedure by which a cadet or an incumbent trooper may request a reasonable accommodation, and the obligations of MDPS in responding to such request.

10. MDPS will conduct the following training:

A. With respect to MDPS Academy Training Officers –

Prior to the commencement of the next MDPS Highway Patrol Training Academy, MDPS will train all training officers on the requirements of the employment provisions of the ADA including, but not limited to, recognizing and responding to a request for reasonable accommodation. MDPS will repeat this training before future Highway Patrol Training Academies for those individuals who will be serving as a training officer for the first time.

B. With respect to all incumbent troopers –

Within one year of the execution of this Settlement Order, MDPS will include in its existing training of incumbent troopers an overview of understanding diabetes, hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia.

C. With respect to all future MDPS Cadet Classes –

MDPS will include in its curriculum an overview of diabetes, hypoglycemia, and hyperglycemia.

11. MDPS shall provide reports to the United States indicating (a) the location and date of any and all ADA related training, and (b) the manner in which it distributed its reasonable accommodation policy and the date of distribution. MDPS shall include a copy of the revised Cadet Manual (when it is published) with the changes required by Paragraph 9, as well as materials developed in compliance with paragraph 10. MDPS shall attach the attendance record of any and all trainings to the reports. These reports are to be submitted within 6 months after the effective date of this Order, and every 12 months thereafter until the Order is terminated as provided in Paragraph 17.


Other Provisions

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

13. Failure by the United States to enforce any provision of this Order shall not be construed as a waiver of its right to enforce other provisions of this Order.

14. This Settlement Order does not purport to remedy any other potential violations of the ADA or any other law that is not specifically addressed in this Settlement Order. This Settlement Order does not affect MDPS’ continuing responsibility to comply with all aspects of the ADA. However, this Settlement Order does resolve all issues raised in the Complaint captioned United States v. Mississippi Department of Public Safety, which was filed May 15, 2000, in the Southern District of Mississippi.

15. MDPS shall not retaliate against any person because that person has cooperated with the United States’ investigation of MDPS’ employment practices or any proceedings connected with that investigation or the administration of this Order.

16. The individuals signing this Settlement Order represent that they are authorized to bind the parties to this Settlement Order.

17. This Settlement Order shall remain in effect for three years from the effective date. The Complaint shall be dismissed with prejudice, except that the United States may petition the Court, at any time during the duration of this Order, to reopen the case for the purpose of enforcing the Order, and the Court shall retain jurisdiction to enforce this Order.

18. The effective date of this Order is the date on which the Court enters this Settlement Order.

19. This Settlement Order constitutes the entire agreement between the parties relating to Department of Justice No. 205-41-6, and no other statement, promise, or agreement, either written or oral, made by any party or agents of any party, that is not contained in this written Settlement Order, including its attachments, shall be enforceable.

20. All notices, reports, or other documents required by this Settlement Order shall be sent to the United States by fax or overnight mail.



SO ORDERED this ______ day of _______________, 2004.

_____________________________________
United States District Judge



AGREED AND CONSENTED TO:

MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF
PUBLIC SAFETY:
UNITED STATES:










_______________________
Melvin Maxwell
Deputy Commissioner of Public Safety
1900 East Woodrow Wilson
Post Office Box 958
Jackson, Mississippi 39205



_______________________
Rickey T. Moore
Billy Berryhill
Office of the Attorney General
State of Mississippi
450 High Street, 5th Floor
Jackson, Mississippi 39201
(601)359-3820

John Ashcroft
Attorney General
R. Alexander Acosta
Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division



__________________________
John L. Wodatch, Chief
L. Irene Bowen, Deputy Chief
Alyse S. Bass, Senior Trial Attorney
Amanda Maisels, Attorney
Disability Rights Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
New York Ave. Bldg. Room 4039
Washington, DC 20530
(2032)307-0663











Exhibit 1



BY OVERNIGHT MAIL

Mr. Ronnie Collins
133 North 3rd Street
Drew, Mississippi 38737

Re: United States v. Mississippi Department of Public Safety
DOJ No. 205-41-6, EEOC Charge No. 131-94-0391

Dear Mr. Collins:

The United States and the Mississippi Department of Public Safety (“MDPS”) have entered into a Settlement Order to resolve the charge you filed in this matter. A copy of the Settlement Order is enclosed.

Under the Settlement Order, MDPS is offering you $35,000.00 in monetary relief. In order to accept MDPS’ offer, you must sign and notarize the enclosed Release of All Claims, and return it to MDPS within 21 days of your receipt of this letter. You may return the Release by mail or in person to me at:

Rickey T. Moore
Office of the Attorney General
State of Mississippi
450 High Street, 5th Floor
Jackson, Mississippi 39201

The monetary award is offered to you on the following condition: if you accept it, you will be required to release MDPS from all claims you may have against it arising out of Department of Justice No. 305-41-6 and EEOC Charge No. 131-94-0391. Within 21 days of MDPS’ receipt of your executed Release form, MDPS will forward you a check in the amount of $35,000.00.

If you have any questions concerning this letter or the Settlement Order, you may contact me at (601) 359-3680, or you may contact Alyse Bass at the U.S. Department of Justice.

Sincerely,

Rickey T. Moore


Enclosure: Copy of Executed Settlement Order & Release of All Claims Form


(Back to Agreement)





Exhibit 2


RELEASE OF ALL CLAIMS FORM



For and in consideration of the acceptance of the monetary relief offered to me by the State of Mississippi, Department of Public Safety, pursuant to a Settlement Order between the United States of America and the State of Mississippi, Department of Public Safety:

I, Ronnie Collins, release and discharge the State of Mississippi, Department of Public Safety and its current, former, and future agents, employees, officials, and designees, of and from all legal and equitable claims, related to my employment with the State of Mississippi, Department of Public Safety or EEOC charge No. 131-94-0391 which I filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on or about January 12, 1994. I further agree that I will not exercise my right to institute against the above entities any civil action alleging employment discrimination on the basis of EEOC charge No. 131-94-0391, or any of the facts alleged therein.

I understand that the payment offered to me does not constitute an admission by the State of Mississippi, Department of Public Safety of the validity of any claim raised by me or on my behalf. I acknowledge that a copy of the Settlement Order between the State of Mississippi, Department of Public Safety and the United States of America resolving the matter between them has been made available to me. This Release constitutes the entire agreement between myself and MDPS without exception or exclusion. This Release will be voidable in the event that MDPS fails to send a check for the monetary compensation of $35,000.00 within 21 days of receipt of this executed Release.

I have read this Release and understand the contents thereof and I execute this Release of my own free act and deed.


Signed this _________ day of __________, 2004

________________________
Ronnie Collins



Sworn and subscribed to before me this ____ day of _______________, 2004.

________________________
Notary Public

My commission expires: ________________



(Back to Agreement)






Exhibit 3

MDPS Policy on Reasonable Accommodations Under Title I of
the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)



The Department of Public Safety (DPS) does not discriminate on the basis of disability, pursuant to title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The ADA makes it unlawful to discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability, because of that disability, in hiring, advancement, reassignment or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. It is also a violation of the ADA to deny a reasonable accommodation to a qualified individual with a disability who is an employee or applicant for employment, except when such accommodation would cause an undue hardship.

This Policy establishes a procedure by which an applicant, cadet, incumbent trooper, and other DPS employee, may request and receive a reasonable accommodation. In general, an accommodation is any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities.

How to Request an Accommodation

An employee or applicant may let any supervisor (e.g. training officer or individual in his or her chain of command) or the Personnel Director know that s/he needs an adjustment or change at work for a reason related to a medical condition or disability. To request an accommodation, an individual may use “plain English” and need not mention the ADA or use the phrase “reasonable accommodation.” The request may be made orally or in writing.

The Interactive Process


After receiving a request for reasonable accommodation, the DPS representative will either:

(1) grant the request, or

(2) initiate a discussion with the employee or applicant, if necessary, to determine whether the individual has a disability, to clarify what the individual needs, and to identify the appropriate reasonable accommodation. A supervisor may seek guidance from the Personnel Director or their Chain of Command before initiating the discussion with the employee or applicant.

If the request involves a matter related to the immediate health or well-being of the individual, the DPS representative who receives the request will conditionally grant the request until such time that DPS can further evaluate the request. Otherwise, DPS will, within seven (7) days, begin an interactive process with the individual to determine the appropriate reasonable accommodation.

DPS may choose among reasonable accommodations as long as the chosen accommodation is adequate to enable the individual to perform the essential functions of the relevant position. Thus, as part of the interactive process, DPS may offer alternative suggestions for reasonable accommodations and discuss their effectiveness in removing the workplace barrier that is impeding the individual with a disability. When the disability and/or the need for accommodation is not obvious, DPS may ask the individual for reasonable documentation about his/her disability and functional limitations.

DPS also will initiate an interactive process with an employee or applicant when DPS (1) knows that the employee has a disability; (2) knows, or has reason to know, that the employee is experiencing workplace problems because of the disability; and (3) knows, or has reason to know, that the disability prevents the employee from requesting a reasonable accommodation. If the individual with a disability states that s/he does not need a reasonable accommodation, DPS will have fulfilled its obligation.

Providing a Reasonable Accommodation

DPS shall notify the individual with the disability that they have granted or denied their request for accommodation as quickly as possible. When the request is granted, DPS shall provide the accommodation promptly. An accommodation may be denied if it would cause an undue hardship. Undue hardship must be based on an individualized assessment of current circumstances that show that a specific reasonable accommodation would cause significant difficulty or expense.


(Back to Agreement)






 

7/16/04