Proposed Consent Decree in United States v. QuikTrip Corporation (D. Neb.)
On July 15, 2010, the Department of Justice reached a settlement under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with QuikTrip Corporation (QuikTrip), the owner and operator of more than 550 gas stations, convenience stores, truck stops, and travel centers ("Stores") located in the Midwestern, Southern, and Southwestern United States. The settlement, which is in the form of a proposed consent decree, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska at the same time as the lawsuit. The proposed consent decree must be approved by the Court.
The lawsuit alleges that QuikTrip Corporation has violated the ADA in the following ways:
- By failing to design and construct its stores built after January 26, 1993, so they are readily accessible to individuals with disabilities in accordance with physical accessibility requirements in the ADA regulations issued by the Department;
- By failing to make alterations to QuikTrip facilities so they are readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities to the maximum extent feasible in accordance with the Department's regulations;
- By failing to remove physical barriers to access by individuals with disabilities when it is readily achievable to do so; and
- By otherwise discriminating against individuals in violation of ADA requirements.
The lawsuit was based on an investigation conducted by the Department after it received complaints from two individuals with disabilities who were concerned that the parking provided for persons with disabilities at a number of QuikTrip stores in and around Omaha, Nebraska, was not accessible. The Department conducted an investigation, confirming that the stores at issue, which were built using prototype designs, had several inaccessible features, including the parking issues identified by the complainants. The Department's investigation also revealed that QuikTrip's other stores, which were generally built from the same or similar prototype plans, had the same types of ADA violations.
QuikTrip Corporation has denied any violations of the ADA but has worked cooperatively with the Department to resolve this matter without active litigation. In the proposed consent decree, QuikTrip agrees to take the following actions to improve access for individuals with disabilities at QuikTrip Stores:
- Over a three year period, QuikTrip will make the necessary modifications to ensure that its current stores are accessible to individuals with disabilities in accordance with the Department's regulations. Necessary modifications, which will differ somewhat from store to store, will include actions such as relocating accessible parking spaces so they are on the shortest accessible route to the store entrance, installing ADA-compliant curb ramps, providing accessible pedestrian routes to stores from public streets and sidewalks, and ensuring that fuel selector switches, credit card payment devices, and other controls on at least one fuel dispenser of each type are low enough so they can be accessed by individuals who use wheelchairs. Where fuel dispensers have two fueling positions (i.e., one on each side), both positions must comply with these requirements. QuikTrip will also make modifications, as needed, inside stores to ensure that counters, food service shelves and displays, restrooms, and other features are accessible to individuals with disabilities.
- QuikTrip has retained an independent licensed architect who is knowledgeable on ADA requirements to ensure that all modifications required for ADA compliance in current stores are made correctly. This independent licensed architect will issue a certification of ADA compliance for each store when he verifies that compliance with ADA accessibility requirements has been achieved. The United States has also retained an independent licensed architect knowledgeable on ADA requirements to confer with the independent licensed architect retained by QuikTrip and help ensure that modifications at QuikTrip Stores are made consistent with ADA requirements.
- QuikTrip will design and construct its future stores so they comply with the Department's regulations. At QuikTrip's future stores, the controls on all fuel dispensers will be low enough so they can be accessed by individuals who use wheelchairs, and at least two fuel dispensers per store will be located on the shortest accessible route to the store entrance. During the next three years, the independent licensed architect retained by QuikTrip will certify compliance with ADA requirements for at least 10% of the estimated 150 stores that QuikTrip will build. If the independent licensed architect believes it is necessary to ensure ADA compliance, he may certify compliance at additional stores; otherwise, ADA compliance will be certified by a QuikTrip construction or project manager trained by the independent licensed architect.
- QuikTrip will provide prompt fueling assistance upon request and free of charge, to customers with disabilities upon request at every fueling position at every QuikTrip store. All fuel dispensers will be equipped with push button notification devices – accessible at each fueling position – that individuals with disabilities can use to notify QuikTrip employees that assistance is needed outside. Some of these push button notification devices do not currently function. Over the next six months, QuikTrip will be testing and making necessary modifications and upgrades to these push button devices to ensure that they are fully functional. Signage will be provided so customers with disabilities can call the store when they are having a problem getting assistance.
- QuikTrip will provide other types of assistance, upon request and free of charge, to individuals with disabilities. Examples of such assistance include cleaning windshields; locating, retrieving, and carrying merchandise; dispensing beverages or food; operating vending machines, accepting telephone relay calls or exchanging notes to communicate with customers who are deaf, are hard of hearing, or have speech impairments; and reading labels and prices or providing wayfinding assistance for customers who are blind or have low vision.
- QuikTrip will pay $1,500,000 into a fund for the compensation of individuals with disabilities who have been denied access or services, or otherwise experienced discrimination, at QuikTrip Stores, including the two individuals who filed the complaints with the Department about inaccessible parking at QuikTrip Stores. The proposed consent decree sets out procedures for making individuals with disabilities aware of the fund and the procedures to be followed in submitting claims. The Department will be responsible for determining which individuals will receive a payment from the fund and how much each payment will be. The proposed consent decree sets out procedures that will be used to notify individuals about the existence of the fund and procedures for filing a claim. If the proposed consent decree is approved by the court, more information about filing a claim will be posted on the ADA Home Page at www.ada.gov. Individuals who believe they have experienced discrimination at a QuikTrip store will be able to begin the process of filing a claim with the Department of Justice by sending an email to QTclaims@usdoj.gov. If the full amount of the fund is not used to satisfy claims submitted by individuals with disabilities, any remaining funds will be distributed to nonprofit organizations that serve the interests of individuals with disabilities, which are designated by the Department and acceptable to QuikTrip. QuikTrip will also pay a penalty of $55,000.
- After a period of up to 90 days, QuikTrip will establish a toll-free telephone number for the receipt of comments and complaints about its facilities and services for individuals with disabilities. QuikTrip will investigate and take appropriate corrective action to resolve any ADA-related complaints from customers. QuikTrip will also designate an ADA Coordinator to oversee its compliance with the proposed consent cecree, modify its website to be accessible to individuals with disabilities, and adopt and implement an ADA-compliant policy to ensure equal access to its stores for individuals with disabilities who are accompanied by service animals.
The parties have agreed that the proposed consent decree should be in effect for a period of four years after approval by the Court.
Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in convenience stores, gas stations, and other businesses that are open to the public which are known as places of public accommodation. Discrimination includes
- the failure to design and construct places of public accommodation so they are readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities;
- the failure to make alterations to places of public accommodation so they are readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities to the maximum extent feasible;
- the failure to remove physical and communication barriers to access by individuals with disabilities when it is readily achievable to do so;
- the failure to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures when necessary to avoid discrimination against individuals with disabilities (e.g., refusing to provide disability-related assistance or refusing to modify a "no pets" policy to allow access by a person with a disability who is accompanied by a service animal); and
- the failure to provide auxiliary aids and services when necessary to ensure effective communication. Auxiliary aids and services include, but are not limited to, exchanging notes to communicate with an individual who is deaf, is hard of hearing, or has a speech impairment; providing wayfinding assistance to a person who is blind or has low vision; and providing a website that is accessible to individuals with disabilities, including blind individuals who use screen readers to access web content.
More information on the ADA is available on the Department's ADA Home Page at www.ada.gov and at the toll-free ADA Information Line, 1-800-514-0301 (voice) and 1-800-514-0383 (TTY).
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