Press Release

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,

Plaintiff,

v.

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE OF THE
COMMONWEALTH OF PUERTO RICO.

Defendant.

 

 

CIVIL ACTION NO. 11-1339 (SEC)

 

 

 

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CONSENT DECREE

I. Introduction

This Consent Decree resolves a civil action brought by Plaintiff United States against Defendant, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico Department of Justice (“Defendant”), to enforce the provisions of title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111, et seq., and its implementing regulation, 29 C.F.R. Part 1630. The United States alleges that Defendant discriminated against Marisol Casanova-Guzman (who uses a wheelchair for mobility), in violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112(a) and 12112(b)(5), as well as 29 C.F.R. §§ 1630.4 and 1630.9, by transferring her to a building that Defendant knew was inaccessible and failing to provide her with a reasonable accommodation for her known disability, as well as by continuing to require her to attend meetings at a building Defendant knows to be inaccessible.

This matter was initiated by the charge filed by Ms. Casanova-Guzman (Charge Number 515-2009-00281) with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). The EEOC investigated the charge and found reasonable cause to believe that the allegations of discrimination on the basis of disability were true. After the EEOC’s attempts at conciliation failed, the EEOC referred the charge to the United States Department of Justice.

On April 14, 2011, the United States filed this action against the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico Department of Justice. The parties agree that this Court has jurisdiction over this matter and that venue is appropriate.

As a result of ongoing discussion, the United States and Defendant (collectively, “the parties”) agree that it is in the parties’ best interests, and the United States believes that it is in the public interest, to resolve this lawsuit on mutually agreeable terms without further litigation. Accordingly, the parties agree to the entry of this Consent Decree without trial or further adjudication of any issues of fact or law raised in the United States’ Complaint.

Accordingly, the parties hereby AGREE and the Court expressly APPROVES, ENTERS AND ORDERS THE FOLLOWING:

II. Injunctive Relief

1. Defendant, by and through its officials, agents, employees, and all persons in active concert or participation with Defendant in the performance of employment or personnel functions, shall not engage in any act or practice that discriminates against any employee or applicant for employment on the basis of disability in violation of title I of the ADA. Discrimination under title I of the ADA includes, among other things, failing to provide reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability. 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112(a) and 12112(b)(5).

2. A. Defendant shall provide training on all aspects of title I of the ADA, including Defendant’s responsibilities with respect to employee reasonable accommodations, to all current supervisory employees as well as all employees who participate in making personnel decisions (collectively, “supervisors”), including, but not limited to, the transfer of employees, within ninety (90) days of the entry of this Consent Decree and every year thereafter for the term of this Decree. The initial training shall be conducted by representatives of the Department of Justice. For subsequent trainings, Defendant shall send via electronic mail the proposed curriculum for the training to the Department no later than thirty (30) days before the training date. Defendant shall adopt any changes to the curriculum made by the Department of Justice, and the Department of Justice shall have the authority to approve the trainers that Defendant has selected.

B. Defendant shall also provide training on all aspects of title I of the ADA to all new supervisors, whether by hire or promotion. Defendant shall provide such training within four (4) months of a new supervisor’s hiring or promotion. Defendant shall also notify the Department, no later than 30 days before a training date, of the trainer that Defendant has selected for such trainings. The Department shall have the authority to approve the trainers that Defendant has selected.

3. Defendant shall not transfer any employee with a disability, including Marisol Casanova-Guzman, to an office location that is inaccessible to such employee and shall not require employees with disabilities to attend meetings in buildings that are inaccessible to them. Prior to transferring any employee with a known physical disability who requires accessible features to a new office location or requiring such employee to attend a meeting at an office location, Defendant shall ensure that the office location will be accessible to such employee.

III. Individual Relief

4. Within fourteen (14) days of the effective date of this Decree, Defendant shall offer, in writing, to pay Marisol Casanova-Guzman $45,000.00 (forty-five thousand dollars).

5. Defendant shall pay to Ms. Casanova-Guzman the full amount of the monetary award referenced in the previous paragraph within ninety (90) days of its receipt of a Release of Claims form signed by Ms. Casanova-Guzman.

IV. Enforcement

6. The United States may review compliance with this Consent Decree at any time (providing reasonable notice of seven (7) days for any on-site inspection related to allegations that Paragraph 3 of this Decree has been violated) and may enforce this Consent Decree if the United States believes that the Decree or any requirement thereof has been violated. If the United States believes that this Consent Decree or any portion of it has been violated, it will raise its concerns with Defendant and the parties will attempt to resolve the concerns in good faith. The United States will give Defendant thirty (30) days to cure the violation resulting from that review prior to instituting any court action, starting from the date that the United States notifies Defendant in writing of any violation of this Consent Decree.

7. Failure by the United States to enforce any provision of this Consent Decree shall not be construed as a waiver of the United States’ right to enforce other provisions of this Consent Decree.

8. This Consent Decree does not purport to remedy any other potential violations of the ADA or any other law that is not specifically addressed herein, nor does it affect Defendant’s continuing responsibility to comply with all aspects of the ADA.

9. This Consent Decree shall remain in effect for two years from the effective date. The Court shall retain jurisdiction to enforce this Consent Decree.

10. The effective date of this Consent Decree is the date on which the Court enters this Consent Decree.

11. This Consent Decree and the Release of Claims Form constitute the entire agreement between the parties relating to United States v. Puerto Rico Department of Justice, Civ. No. 11-1339; Department of Justice Number 205-65-10; and EEOC Charge No. 515-2009-00281. 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 Consent Decree shall be enforceable.

12. This Consent Decree shall be binding on Defendant, its agents, and employees.

13. The individuals signing this Consent Decree represent that they are authorized to bind the parties to this Consent Decree.

Respectfully submitted this 29th day of August, 2011.

FOR THE UNITED STATES:

____________________________________
THOMAS E. PEREZ
Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division


_____________________________________
ALLISON J. NICHOL, Chief
KATHLEEN P. WOLFE, Acting Special Legal Counsel
Disability Rights Section
Civil Rights Division


____________________________________
ALYSE S. BASS
ALBERTO RUISANCHEZ
Trial Attorneys
Disability Rights Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW - NYA
Washington, D.C. 20530
Telephone: (202) 353-0368
Facsimile: (202) 305-9775
Email: Alyse.Bass@usdoj.gov
Aberto.Ruisanchez@usdoj.gov
Attorneys for the United States


FOR THE PUERTO RICO DEPARMENT OF JUSTICE:

Date: August 29, 2011

_______________________________________
Aldarondo & López Bras, P.S.C.
ALB Plaza, 16 P.R. Road 199 - Suite 400
Guaynabo, Puerto Rico 00969
Tel. No. (787) 474-5447
Fax. No. (787) 474-5451

S/Claudio Aliff Ortiz
Claudio Aliff Ortiz
USDC-PR No. 205313
E-mail: califf@alblegal.net

 

RELEASE OF CLAIMS

For and in consideration of the acceptance of the Department of Justice of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico’s (“PRDOJ”) offer of $45,000.00 (forty-five thousand dollars) in compensatory damages, as set out in the Consent Decree between the United States and the Department of Justice of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico:

I, Marisol Casanova-Guzman, release and dis­charge the PRDOJ and its current, former, and future agents, employees, offi­cials, and desig­nees, of and from all legal and equitable claims arising under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq., related to the case United States v. Puerto Rico Department of Justice, Civ. No. 11-1339; Department of Justice Number 205-65-10; and EEOC Charge No. 515-2009-00281.

I understand that the relief offered to me does not constitute an admis­sion by the PRDOJ of the validity of any claim raised by me or on my behalf. I acknowledge that a copy of said Consent Decree resolving the case has been made available to me. This Release constitutes the entire agreement between me and the PRDOJ without exception or exclusion. This Release will be voidable in the event that the PRDOJ fails to pay to me the amount specified above.

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 _______________________, 2011.

________________________
Marisol Casanova-Guzman

 

Sworn and subscribed to before me this ____ day of _______________, 2011.

________________________
Notary Public