SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES
OF AMERICA AND THE MOUNTAIN VALLEY MIDGET FOOTBALL LEAGUE
UNDER THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT
BACKGROUND AND JURISDICTION
- This Settlement Agreement is made and entered into by the United States of America and the Mountain Valley Midget Football League (the "League"), a league that provides youth an opportunity to play football in western Pennsylvania. The United States and the League shall be referred to collectively as "the Parties."
- This Agreement resolves a complaint filed with the United States Department of Justice by Angel Ashbaugh in which she alleges that the League discriminated against her son on the basis of disability in violation of title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12181-12189.
- Title III prohibits public accommodations from discriminating against individuals with disabilities in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations being offered. 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a). Title III also requires a public accommodation to make reasonable modifications to its policies, practices, and procedures when such modifications are necessary to afford such goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations to individuals with disabilities, unless the public accommodation can demonstrate that taking those steps would fundamentally alter the nature of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations being offered. 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(ii); 28 C.F.R. § 36.302.
- The United States investigated this complaint pursuant to the Attorney General's authority under 42 U.S.C. § 12188(b)(1)(A)(i).
- The League is a private entity that leases and/or operates a place of exercise or recreation. 42 U.S.C. § 12181(7)(L); 28 C.F.R. § 36.104. Accordingly, the League is a public accommodation and is subject to the requirements of title III of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12181-12189, and its implementing regulation, 28 C.F.R. Part 36.
- Angel Ashbaugh's son is seven years old and has several visual impairments, including ocular albinism. Ocular albinism is a condition that results in little or no pigment in the eyes and, in the case of Mrs. Ashbaugh's son, causes severe sensitivity to sunlight.
- In July 2011, Mrs. Ashbaugh signed her son up to play football in the League. Before the season began in August 2011, Mrs. Ashbaugh attended a League meeting and, after explaining her son's ocular albinism, requested that the League permit her son to play football with a helmet that has a tinted visor, which would help to block sunlight.
- After consulting its rules, the League refused to grant Mrs. Ashbaugh's request because, in its view, allowing the use of a tinted visor would require paramedics to remove her son's helmet to see his pupils in the event he was injured on the field and needed to be evaluated for a concussion. According to the League, removing an injured child's helmet under such circumstances could be dangerous to his or her health. Although it did not permit Mrs. Ashbaugh's son to use the requested tinted visor, the League permitted Mrs. Ashbaugh's son to play football with tinted eyewear.
- Mrs. Ashbaugh's son attempted to use tinted eyewear during League games and practices, but the eyewear was not effective. For instance, Mrs. Ashbaugh's son's glasses would get foggy when he played and they would slide down his face and need to be readjusted. When this would happen, Mrs. Ashbaugh's son would stop playing football, solicit the help of his mother or coach, take off his helmet, and readjust the glasses and strap so that they would fit better.
- On September 6, 2011, Mrs. Ashbaugh attended another League meeting. At the meeting, she informed League officials of the problem that her son was having with the glasses and reiterated her request that he be permitted to use a tinted visor. The League again refused the request on the same grounds as before.
- Mrs. Ashbaugh's son has a physical impairment that substantially limits the major life activity of seeing, making him a person with a disability under the ADA. 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1).
- The United States has determined that the League violated title III and its implementing regulations by failing to make a reasonable modification of its policies, practices, and procedures to permit Mrs. Ashbaugh's son to use a tinted visor when playing football. 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a); 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(ii).
- The League denies that it violated the ADA.
TERMS OF AGREEMENT
- The League shall not discriminate against individuals with disabilities in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations being offered. 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a). It will make reasonable modifications to its policies, practices, and procedures when such modifications are necessary to afford its goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations to individuals with disabilities, unless taking those steps would fundamentally alter the nature of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages. 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(ii); 28 C.F.R. §§ 36.302 and 36.208(a).
- Within three months of the effective date of this Agreement, the League shall develop and implement a written Disability Rights Policy that: (1) sets forth and explains the anti-discrimination mandate of title III of the ADA; (2) describes the duty to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices and procedures under the ADA and provides examples of such modifications; and (3) identifies and explains the procedures that personnel must follow when responding to requests for reasonable modifications made by persons with disabilities. The League shall provide a draft of such Policy to the Department of Justice for review and approval prior to implementation.
- Within ten days of the United States' approval of the Disability Rights Policy, the League shall disseminate a copy of the Policy to all employees, coaches, administrators, and board members of the League. A copy of the Policy shall be made available throughout each football season to the parent(s) of every player.
- At the beginning of each football season, the League shall provide a training on title III of the ADA to every member of the League's Board of Directors who has any decision making authority regarding whether to grant or deny requests for reasonable modifications under title III. The training session shall cover the anti-discrimination provisions of title III of the ADA; the duty to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices and procedures under the ADA; and the League's new Disability Rights Policy. Within fourteen days of the training, the League shall provide the United States with an attendance sheet that indicates who attended the training, their titles, and when it occurred.
- The League shall permit Mrs. Ashbaugh's son to use a tinted visor in League games and practices as a reasonable modification to its policies, practices, and procedures, and shall grant any other requested modification that is required by title III of the ADA.
- Within thirty days of receiving a signed Release of Claims form (Attachment A), the League shall issue a check payable to Angel Ashbaugh in the sum of $1,000.00 and send it by overnight delivery to Angel Ashbaugh. The League shall provide a copy of the check to the Department of Justice within seven days of sending the check to the complainant.
- In consideration of the terms of this Agreement, the United States agrees to refrain from undertaking further investigation of and from filing a civil lawsuit against the League to enforce the ADA regarding all matters contained within this Agreement, except as provided for in Paragraph 21.
IMPLEMENTATION AND ENFORCEMENT
- The United States may review compliance with this Agreement at any time and may enforce this Agreement or file a lawsuit under title III of the ADA if the United States believes that this Agreement 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 the League, and the Parties will attempt to resolve the concern(s) in good faith. If the Parties are unable to reach a satisfactory resolution of the issue or issues raised within thirty (30) days of the date the United States provides notice to the League, the United States may institute a civil action in federal district court directly to enforce title III of the ADA and/or to enforce the terms of this Agreement.
- 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.
- This Agreement constitutes the entire agreement between the Parties relating to Department of Justice No. 202-64-82, and no other statement, promise, or agreement, written or oral, made by any party or agents of any party, that is not contained in this written Agreement shall be enforceable. This Agreement shall be binding on the United States and the League.
- All notices, documents, or other communications to be provided pursuant to this Agreement shall be in writing and delivered by email or overnight mail to the following person and address (or such other persons and addresses as the United States may designate in writing):
Disability Rights Section
U.S. Department of Justice
1425 New York Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20005
- If any provision 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, provided however, that if the severance of any such provision materially alters the rights or obligations of the parties, the United States and the League shall engage in good faith negotiations in order to adopt such mutually agreeable amendments to this Agreement as may be necessary to restore the parties as closely as possible to the initially agreed-upon relative rights and obligations.
- The individual signing this document on behalf of the League represents that he or she is authorized to bind that party to this Agreement.
- The effective date of this Agreement is the date of the last signature below. This Agreement shall remain in effect for three years from the effective date.
FOR THE UNITED STATES:
THOMAS E. PEREZ
Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division
Senior Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General
ALLISON J. NICHOL, Chief
KATHLEEN P. WOLFE, Special Litigation Counsel
ALBERTO RUISANCHEZ, Deputy Chief
Disability Rights Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530
(202) 305-1291 (phone)
(202) 305-9775 (fax)
Date: March 19, 2012
FOR MOUNTAIN VALLEY MIDGET FOOTBALL LEAGUE:
In consideration of the payment of $1,000.00 pursuant to the terms of the Settlement Agreement entered between the United States and the Mountain Valley Midget Football League, I, Angel Ashbaugh, on behalf of myself and my son, Anthony Ashbaugh, hereby release the Mountain Valley Midget Football League, together with its subsidiaries, affiliates, parents, successors, officers, assigns, partners, shareholders, agents, employees, attorneys, or representatives, from liability for any and all claims for relief or causes of action under the Americans with Disabilities Act that I may have against the Mountain Valley Midget Football League, arising from the facts and circumstances alleged in Department of Justice File No. 202-64-82.
Dated _________, 2012