SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT

UNDER THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT

BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

AND

ALTAGRACIA ROUMOU

DJ No. 202-90-32


I. INTRODUCTION

  1. The parties to this Settlement Agreement (“Agreement”) are the United States of America (“United States”) and Altagracia Roumou (“Roumou”), located on St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.
  2. The parties agree that it is in their best interests, and the United States believes that it is in the public interest, to resolve this dispute without engaging in protracted litigation. The parties have therefore voluntarily entered into this Agreement, as follows:

II. THE PARTIES

  1. The United States Department of Justice (the “Department”) is responsible for enforcing title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12181-12189, as amended, and the relevant regulations implementing title III, 28 C.F.R. pt. 36 and 49 C.F.R. pts. 37 and 38.
  2. Ms. Roumou is a private individual, who resides on St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. She is licensed to and engaged in the business of providing taxi services to members of the general public on a regular and continuing basis on St. Thomas. Ms. Roumou is the registered owner of a “safari” taxi, designated by St. Thomas Taxi Medallion # 0307. As such, Ms. Roumou’s taxi business is a private entity which provides public transportation services within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 12181(10) and 49 C.F.R. § 37.29.

III. BACKGROUND

  1. This matter was initiated by a complaint filed under title III of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12181-12189, with the Department by Zane Birnie (“Birnie”).
  2. Mr. Birnie is an individual who is blind and utilizes a service animal. Mr. Birnie alleges that on May 4, 2012, on St. Thomas, he was denied taxi service by Ms. Roumou because she refused to transport his service animal.
  3. Mr. Birnie is an individual with a disability within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 12102, 42 C.F.R. § 37.3, and 28 C.F.R. § 36.104.
  4. Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of a disability in the full and equal enjoyment of specified public transportation services provided by an entity that is primarily engaged in the business of transporting people and whose operations affect commerce. 42 U.S.C. § 12184(a); 49 C.F.R. § 37.29(c). Section 37.167(d) of Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations provides that such an entity shall permit service animals to accompany individuals with disabilities in vehicles.
  5. Ms. Roumou admits that she did not permit Mr. Birnie to ride in her taxi on May 4, 2012, but claims that she did not know that he was blind or that his dog was a service animal.
  6. In order to resolve this matter without engaging in protracted litigation, the parties have agreed to settle this matter according to the terms in this Agreement. This Agreement shall not be construed as an admission of liability by Ms. Roumou.
  7. In consideration of the terms of this Agreement, the United States agrees to refrain from undertaking further investigation or filing a civil suit pertaining to the allegations made in this matter, except as provided in the Enforcement and Implementation sections of the Agreement.

IV. REMEDIAL ACTION

  1. Consistent with title III of the ADA, Ms. Roumou shall not discriminate against any individual on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the taxicab services she provides by excluding or providing unequal treatment to persons with disabilities, including those who use service animals. 42 U.S.C § 12184; 28 C.F.R. §§ 36.201, 36.202; 49 C.F.R. §§ 37.5, 37.21, 37.29. Specifically, Ms. Roumou will make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures that are necessary to afford goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations to individuals with disabilities, including those who use service animals. 42 U.S.C. §12184(b)(2)(A); 28 C.F.R. §§ 36.302(a), (c); 49 C.F.R. §§ 37.5, 37.21, 37.29, 37.167(d).
  2. Service Animal Policy: Ms. Roumou agrees that, henceforth, all persons with disabilities, including those accompanied by service animals, will be welcome in all taxicabs that she operates. Ms. Roumou agrees to adopt and abide by the Service Animal Policy (Exhibit A) attached to this Agreement. Ms. Roumou agrees that she shall not refuse to transport a person with a disability because that person is accompanied by a service animal. She also agrees that she shall not charge a person with a disability any extra fee or ask a person with a disability to comply with any additional condition of service because they are accompanied by a service animal even if an extra fee or charge or condition of service is required for the transportation of a pet.
  3. Training: Ms. Roumou shall attend the next available training offered by the Virgin Islands Taxi Cab Commission regarding service to persons with disabilities by taxicab operators. Ms. Roumou shall inform the Department when she has completed this training.
  4. 15. Ms. Roumou shall not retaliate against the complainant for filing a complaint with the Department or otherwise exercising rights protected by the ADA. 42 U.S.C. § 12203(a).

V. MONETARY RELIEF FOR COMPLAINANT

  1. The ADA authorizes the Attorney General to seek a court award of compensatory damages on behalf of individuals aggrieved as the result of violations of the ADA. 42 U.S.C. § 12188(b)(2)(B); 28 C.F.R. § 36.504(a)(2). Within ten (10) days of the effective date of this Agreement, Ms. Roumou shall compensate the complainant in this matter by providing him a certified check in the amount of one thousand dollars ($1000.00), via certified mail to the address provided by the United States. Ms. Roumou will simultaneously send a copy of the check and the accompanying letter to counsel for the United States.
  2. In consideration for the compensatory damages set forth above, the United States agrees that within ten (10) days of its receipt of the Agreement signed by Ms. Roumou, it will obtain the complainant’s signature on the Waiver and Release of Claim form attached hereto as Attachment B. The Department will mail the original of the signed Waiver and Release of Claim form to Ms. Roumou within fifteen (15) days of the Department’s receipt of same.
  3. The ADA also authorizes the United States Attorney General to seek a civil penalty as a result of violations of the ADA. 42 U.S.C. § 12188(b)(2)(C); 28 C.F.R.§ 36.504(a)(3). Ms. Roumou shall make a payment to the United States in the amount of one thousand dollars ($1,000) as a civil penalty in the public interest. This payment shall be made in two installments of five hundred dollars ($500) by certified check or money order payable to the United States Treasury. The first installment is due within sixty (60) days of the effective date of this Agreement. The second installment is due within ninety (90) days of the effective date of this Agreement. The installments shall be delivered to counsel for the United States.

VI. ENFORCEMENT

  1. This Settlement Agreement cannot be modified or amended except by an instrument in writing, agreed to and signed by the Parties.
  2. The United States may review compliance with this Agreement at any time. If the United States believes that this Agreement or any of its requirements have been violated, it may institute a civil action in Federal District Court to enforce this Agreement or the requirements of title III, following written notice to Ms. Roumou of possible violations and a period of 30 days in which Ms. Roumou has the opportunity to cure the alleged violations.
  3. For purposes of the immediately preceding paragraph, it is a violation of this Agreement for Ms. Roumou to fail to comply in a timely manner with any of its requirements without obtaining sufficient advance written Agreement with the United States for an extension of the relevant time frame imposed by the Agreement.
  4. Failure by the United States to enforce this entire Agreement or any of its provisions or deadlines shall not be construed as a waiver of the United States’ right to enforce other deadlines and provisions of this Agreement.

VII. IMPLEMENTATION

  1. The Agreement, including Attachments A, and B, constitute 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, will be enforceable under its provisions.
  2. This Agreement is limited to the facts set forth above and does not purport to remedy or resolve any other existing or potential violations of the ADA or any other local or Federal law.
  3. This Agreement does not affect Ms. Roumou’s continuing responsibility to comply with all applicable aspects of title III of the ADA. In particular, title III imposes an obligation to make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures, when the modifications are necessary to afford goods, services, and facilities to individuals with disabilities.
  4. A copy of this document or any information contained in it will be made available to any person by Ms. Roumou or the United States on request.
  5. The effective date of this Agreement is the date of the last signature below. This Agreement will remain in effect for three (3) years from the effective date of this Agreement
  6. The provisions of this Settlement Agreement shall be deemed severable, and any invalidity or unenforceability of any one or more of its provisions shall not affect the validity or enforceability of the other provisions herein.

RONALD W. SHARPE
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY

 

 
DATED: May 15, 2014

By:/s/ Noah Sacks
Noah D. Sacks
Assistant United States Attorney
U.S. Attorney’s Office
5500 Veteran’s Drive, Suite 260
St. Thomas, VI 00802
Ph: (340) 774-5757
noah.sacks@usdoj.gov
Attorney for the United States

 

DATED: May 15, 2014

/s/ Clive Rivers
Clive Rivers
800 Nisky Center
Suite 233 St. Thomas, VI 00802
Ph: (340) 776-4666
crivers64@earthlink.net
Attorney for Ms. Roumou

 

DATED: May 15, 2014

/s/ Altagracia Roumou
Altagracia Roumou
St. Thomas, VI 00802

 

TERRITORY OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS )
DISTRICT OF ST. THOMAS/ST. JOHN    ) SS:

On this 15 day of May, 2014, before me personally appeared, Altagracia Roumou, known to me to be the individual who executed the foregoing instrument, and acknowledged that she, having the requisite authority to do so, executed the same freely and voluntarily, for the purposes therein stated.

 

WITNESS my hand and official seal.


___________________
NOTARY PUBLIC

 

ATTACHMENT A

POLICY REGARDING SERVICE ANIMALS FOR CUSTOMERS WITH DISABILITIES

In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Altagracia Roumou is committed to providing taxi transportation services for customers with disabilities, including those individuals with disabilities who are accompanied by service animals. Service animals play an important role in ensuring the independence of people with disabilities. It is, therefore, my policy to welcome any animal that is individually trained to assist a person with a disability in my taxicab.

What is a Service Animal?

Service animal means any dog individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of persons with disabilities. Service animals come in all breeds and sizes. They may be trained either by an organization or by an individual with a disability, need not be certified or licensed, and provide a wide range of services that may or may not be identifiable, including but not limited to:

(1)    assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks;

(2)    alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds;

(3)    pulling a wheelchair;

(4)    assisting an individual during a seizure or alerting individuals to the presence of allergens;

(5)    providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities; and

(6)    helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors.

Requirements with Regard to Service Animals

If you are not certain that an animal is a service animal, you may ask the person who has the animal if it is a service animal required because of a disability and what service the animal is trained to perform. However, you must not ask a customer with a disability for proof of his or her disability or for any information about his or her disability, nor may you require proof or certification of the animal’s training or vaccination. Service animals do not always have a sign or symbol indicating they are service animals. It is Altagracia Roumou’s policy that she:

1)   must not refuse to provide transportation services to a customer or potential customer with a disability because that individual is accompanied by a service animal;

2)   must not ask or require a customer or potential customer accompanied by a service animal to pay any surcharge or deposit not imposed on customers generally because that individual has a service animal. Surcharges or deposits applied to customers or potential customers because they are accompanied by pets must not be applied to customers or potential customers accompanied by service animals; and

3)   must not require a customer or potential customer accompanied by a service animal to comply with any additional conditions of service not imposed on customers generally. Prohibited conditions of service include policies or practices suggesting that customers or potential customers with disabilities accompanied by service animals are not as welcome as other customers. Examples of such conditions include asking a customer to disclose at the time transportation service is requested that he or she will be accompanied by a service animal, advising drivers that a customer or potential customer will be accompanied by a service animal before a driver accepts a trip, asking or requiring customers or potential customers accompanied by service animals to muzzle the animals, refusing to transport more than one customer or potential customer accompanied by a service animal together in the same vehicle, placing restrictions on the taxicabs in which customers or potential customers accompanied by service animals are or will be transported, making customers or potential customers accompanied by service animals wait longer than people without service animals before providing transportation services, and making hostile, angry, or insulting comments about a person’s service animal or disability.

In addition, taxicab drivers must not refuse to stop and transport one or more individuals with disabilities accompanied by service animal(s) who are signaling passing taxicabs if the taxi is on duty and available to provide transportation services.

For customers or potential customers who are blind or have low vision, drivers must orally alert such individuals that the taxi has arrived if asked to do so or if it is apparent that the individual does not see that the taxi has arrived.

Limited Exceptions

A taxicab driver has the right to exclude the service animal from the taxicab only if the animal is out of control and the animal’s handler does not take effective action to control it or the animal is not housebroken. A taxicab driver may not refuse service to that individual with a disability when he or she is not accompanied by a service animal. Moreover, Ms. Roumou will not deny transportation to a person with a disability accompanied by a service animal based on fear of animals or of dogs even if such fear is based on past experience with other animals. Each situation will be considered individually.