SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT BETWEEN
THE UNITED STATES
DJ # 202-71-73
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND INVESTIGATION
- This Settlement Agreement ("Agreement") is made and entered into between the United States of America ("United States") and the Micro-Hospitality Partnership d/b/a Microtel Inns & Suites, which owns the Microtel Inn (collectively, "Microtel"). This Agreement resolves an investigation of the Microtel Inn conducted by the United States Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Tennessee ("U.S. Attorney's Office") and the Department of Justice under title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12181-12189, and its implementing regulation, 28 C.F.R. Part 36. The United States initiated this investigation after receiving a complaint from a citizen, Michael Turner ("Complainant") on February 16, 2010, alleging that the Microtel Inn discriminated against people with disabilities and denied equal access to its hotel for people with disabilities who use service animals.
- The Attorney General is authorized to, and did, investigate this complaint pursuant to the authority granted by title III of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12188(b)(1)(A), and 28 C.F.R. § 36.502. The Attorney General is authorized to enforce title III of the ADA by seeking, at its discretion, damages and full compliance with title III's provisions, including requiring the owners and operators of a place of public accommodation to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures. 28 C.F.R. § 36.504(a). The Attorney General may commence a civil action to enforce title III in any situation where the Attorney General has reasonable cause to believe that a pattern or practice of discrimination exists or a matter of general public importance is raised. 42 U.S.C. § 12188(a)(2); 42 U.S.C. § 12188(b)(1)(B).
- The Microtel Inn is a place of lodging operated by Micro-Hospitality Partnership d/b/a Microtel Inns & Suites, a private entity whose operations affect commerce. It is thus a place of public accommodation within the meaning of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12181(7)(A), and 28 C.F.R. § 36.104.
- The complaint alleges that the Microtel Inn failed to modify its policies to permit individuals with disabilities to rent a room and make use of Microtel Inn's common areas while accompanied by a service animal. Specifically, the Complainant, an individual who is blind and who uses a service animal, states that on August 10, 2009, he and his family (including his common-law wife, and their three children) attempted to check-in at the Microtel Inn to rent a room after calling Microtel Inn ahead of time and informing the motel that he would be arriving with a service animal. Upon arrival, the desk clerk told the Complainant that pets were not allowed at the motel. Complainant explained that he is blind and that his animal was a seeing-eye dog, but the clerk refused to rent Complainant a room. She informed Complainant that his dog was not allowed on the premises and that he should go to the motel across the road, which the clerk claimed had the same ownership as the Microtel Inn and allowed "pets." When Complainant insisted that he had a right to stay at the motel with his service animal, the desk clerk called 911 and asked that police be sent to remove Complainant and his family from the premises.
- The United States has investigated the complaint and has concluded that it has merit. To the extent that Microtel has claimed to have any policy regarding service animals in place, either written or otherwise, at the Microtel Inn, that policy is inadequate as evidenced by the actions alleged in the complaint and confirmed in the United States' investigation.
- During the course of its investigation, the United States, inter alia, interviewed the Complainant and the police officers that responded to the desk clerk's 911 call. The United States also obtained and considered recordings of the 911 calls made by both the desk clerk at the Microtel Inn and by Complainant. Furthermore, the United States reviewed and considered Microtel's responses, through counsel, to requests for information indicating that Microtel denied the allegations of the complaint.
- Microtel denies that it or its agents have violated the ADA and does not admit to any of the allegations made by the Complainant or the United States. However, in the interest of resolving the United States' investigation without litigation, the parties have agreed to resolve this matter as set forth without adjudication of any factual or legal disputes.
- The parties to this Agreement are the United States and Microtel, a Tennessee business.
- Pursuant to the ADA, Microtel agrees that persons with disabilities who are accompanied by their service animals at the Microtel Inn shall be afforded the opportunity to participate in or benefit from the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations equal to that afforded to other individuals as required by the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(1)(A)(ii), and 28 C.F.R. § 36.202(b). Microtel further agrees to modify the policies, practices, and procedures at the Microtel Inn to permit the use of a service animal by individuals with disabilities. See 28 C.F.R. §36.302(c).
- Microtel agrees that it will not coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with any individual in the exercise or enjoyment of, or on account of his or her having exercised or enjoyed, any right granted or protected by the ADA as required by 42 U.S.C. § 12203, and 28 C.F.R. § 36.206(b).
- Microtel agrees that it shall not exclude or otherwise deny equal goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, accommodations, or other opportunities to individuals because of such individuals' relationship or association with an individual with a known disability as required by 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(1)(E), and 28 C.F.R. § 36.205.
- Upon the Effective Date of this Agreement, Microtel shall adopt a written policy for the Microtel Inn that ensures equal access by people with disabilities, including those using service animals. This shall be accomplished through the adoption of the service animal policy attached as Exhibit A to this Agreement.
- Within ten (10) days of the Effective Date of this Agreement, Microtel shall post, maintain, and refresh, as necessary, a sign, printed in dark bold letters, in a font twenty-six (26) points or larger in size, on a contrasting white background, stating "Service Animals Welcome" that shall be conspicuously located in an area of the Microtel Inn where it can be easily seen and read by members of the public.
- Within ninety (90) days of the Effective Date of this Agreement, Microtel shall provide its employees at the Microtel Inn with training regarding its obligations under title III of the ADA and its implementing regulation, 28 C.F.R. pt. 36, including but not limited to the obligations to make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and procedures when necessary for ADA compliance, and on the service animal policy attached as Exhibit A to this Agreement. Furthermore, throughout the term of this Agreement, employees and contractors hired by Microtel after the above-described initial training session will attend an educational training program, with content and format as described above, within their first thirty (30) days of work for Microtel. All training will be provided at Microtel's expense by an independent third party knowledgeable regarding the requirements of title III of the ADA and approved by the United States. The person who conducts each training session will provide a written certification stating the date on which training was provided and the name of each person who attended and completed each such training. Microtel will submit a copy of each such certification to the United States together with a report of its actions relating to compliance with the terms of this Agreement within ten (10) days of the initial training session.
- Microtel agrees to inform any other hotels, motels, or inns that it owns, operates, and/or manages of the issue with Complainant and this Agreement. Microtel will cause said hotels, motels, or inns to adopt the service animal policy attached as Exhibit A.
- Microtel shall pay twenty thousand dollars ($20,000) to the United States as a civil penalty pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 12188(b)(2)(C) and 28 C.F.R. § 36.504(a)(3). Microtel will pay this penalty in four (4) installments of $5,000. The first of these payments shall be made the day that Microtel executes this agreement. An additional payment shall be due every thirty (30) days thereafter until the full amount is satisfied. Microtel will deliver the checks or money orders to the attention of Christopher C. Sabis, U.S. Attorney's Office, 110 9th Avenue South, Suite A-961, Nashville, TN 37203, by common carrier Federal Express, delivery prepaid.
- In consideration of the above actions, the Department of Justice agrees to close the investigation of this complaint and to refrain from bringing a civil action for violations of the ADA resulting from Complainant's August 10, 2009 visit specified herein, except as provided in paragraphs 18 and 19 of this Agreement.
ENFORCEMENT AND IMPLEMENTATION OF THE AGREEMENT
- The Department of Justice may review compliance with this Agreement at any time. If the Department of Justice believes that Microtel is not in compliance with this Agreement or any requirement contained herein, the Department of Justice agrees to notify Microtel in writing of the alleged non-compliance. Microtel shall have thirty (30) days to respond to the Department regarding the alleged non-compliance, and the Parties will attempt in good faith to resolve the matter informally. If the Parties are unable to reach a resolution, the Department may seek appropriate relief from the United States District Court. If the Court determines that Microtel has violated the terms of this Agreement or the ADA, it shall be subject to all available remedies under the ADA.
- Any failure of the Department of Justice to enforce this Agreement or any provision herein with respect to any deadline or any other provision herein shall not be construed as a waiver of the Department of Justice's right to enforce other deadlines and provisions of this Agreement. Invalidation of any particular provision or portion of a provision shall not affect the validity of this Agreement, which shall continue to have full force and effect.
- Microtel and/or the Department of Justice shall provide a copy of this Agreement to any person or entity upon request.
- The Effective Date of this Agreement is the date of the last signature below. The Agreement shall remain in effect until three (3) years after the Effective Date.
- This Agreement shall be binding on Microtel only for as long as it owns and operates the Microtel Inn. In the event that Microtel seeks to transfer or assign all or part of its interest in the Microtel Inn, and the successor or assign intends on carrying on the same or similar use of the facility, as a condition of sale, Microtel shall obtain the written accession of the successor or assign to any obligations remaining under this Agreement for the remaining term of the Agreement.
- This Agreement constitutes the entire Agreement between the parties on the matters raised herein, and no other statement, promise, or agreement, either written or oral, made by either party or agents of either party, that is not contained in this written Agreement, shall be enforceable regarding the matters raised herein. This Agreement does not affect Microtel's continuing responsibility to comply with all aspects of title III of the ADA.
- This Agreement does not address civil damages related to Complainant's allegations, and is limited to civil penalties and nonmonetary relief sought by the United States pursuant to the ADA. The United States and Microtel are the only parties to this Agreement. Complainant is not a party to this Agreement and nothing herein shall be construed to bar or in any way affect any claim or action for damages that Complainant has brought or is otherwise entitled to bring in any state or federal court or tribunal.
- The person(s) signing this Agreement on behalf of Microtel represent that they are authorized to bind Microtel to this Agreement.
- This Agreement shall terminate after three years from the Effective Date.
MICRO-HOSPITALITY PARTNERSHIP d/b/a MICROTEL INNS & SUITES
By:__/s/ Jayesh Patel__
Name: Jayesh Patel
Title: Partner, Micro-Hospitality Partnership
FOR THE UNITED STATES:
___/s/ Christopher C. Sabis___________
By: Christopher C. Sabis
Assistant U.S. Attorney