SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT
BETWEEN
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
AND
GUILFORD TOWER LLC
d/b/a COMFORT INN
DJ # 202-14-193

The parties to this agreement ("Agreement") are the United States of America and Guilford Tower, LLC ("Guilford Tower") d/b/a the Comfort Inn located at 300 Boston Post Road, Guilford, Connecticut, 06437 ("Comfort Inn"). The parties hereby agree as follows:

I. BACKGROUND AND JURISDICTION

  1. The Comfort Inn is located at 300 Boston Post Road, Guilford, Connecticut, 06437, and is owned by Guilford Tower.
  2. The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut, a component of the United States Department of Justice (“United States”), opened an investigation of the Comfort Inn facility pursuant to Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§12181-12189, and its implementing regulations, 28 C.F.R. pt. 36.  The United States initiated its investigation upon the receipt of a complaint that the Comfort Inn refused service to an individual with a disability who utilizes a service dog.  Upon investigation of the allegations regarding refusal to permit the complainant and his service dog, including a site visit, the United States Attorney’s Office began a compliance review regarding architectural barriers at the Comfort Inn.
  3. The United States is authorized to investigate alleged violations of Title III of the ADA.  Moreover, the United States is authorized, where appropriate, to use alternative means of dispute resolution, including settlement negotiations to resolve disputes.  If resolution is not achieved, the United States may bring a civil action in federal court in any case where the Attorney General has reasonable cause to believe that a pattern or practice of discrimination exists or where the case raises an issue of general public importance.  42 U.S.C. §§ 12188(b), 12212; 28 C.F.R. §§ 36.502, 36.503, 36.506.
  4. Title III of the ADA mandates that “[n]o individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.”  42 U.S.C. § 12182(a).
  5. The Comfort Inn is a place of public accommodation within the meaning of Title III because it is “an inn, hotel, motel, or other place of lodging.”  42 U.S.C. § 12181(7)(A).  Guilford Tower, as the owner and operator of the Comfort Inn, is a public accommodation subject to the requirements of Title III of the ADA.  28 C.F.R. § 36.104.
  6. The ADA requires that, generally, public accommodations modify policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of service animals by persons with disabilities.  42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(ii); 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(a), (c).
  7. Title III permits only two inquiries by a public accommodation to determine whether an animal qualifies as a service animal.  The public accommodation may ask if the animal is required because of a disability and what work or task the animal has been trained to perform, except a public accommodation may not make such inquiries when it is readily apparent that an animal is a service animal trained to do work or perform tasks.  28 C.F.R. § 36.302(c)(7).
  8. Title III prohibits a public accommodation from requiring that an individual with a disability who uses a service animal provide documentation, such as proof that a service animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal.  28 C.F.R. § 36.302(c)(7). 
  9. The Comfort Inn was constructed in 2003, however, alterations were made after March 15, 2012, including renovation of the Comfort Inn’s lobby, lobby toilet rooms, lobby breakfast area, guest rooms, and exterior.  Renovation of the exterior included improvements to the parking area.  Because the Comfort Inn has undergone alterations as defined by the ADA, 28 C.F.R. § 36.402(b), the altered portions of the facility must be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs, to the maximum extent feasible.  42 U.S.C. § 12183(a)(2); 28 C.F.R. § 36.402(a).
  10. The United States reviewed information provided by Guilford Tower, and conducted a site visit of the Comfort Inn on June 14, 2017.  The United States used the ADA Standards for Accessible Design, including the 1991 Standards defined at 28 C.F.R. Part 36, Appendix D, and the 2010 Standards defined at 28 C.F.R. § 36.104, to identify ADA violations, which were shared with Guilford Tower. 

II. REMEDIAL ACTIONS TO BE TAKEN BY GUILFORD TOWER

  1. Guilford Tower will implement the following remedial measures to ensure that the Comfort Inn does not discriminate against individuals with disabilities who utilize service animals:
    1. Consistent with the requirements of Title III of the ADA, Guilford Tower will not discriminate against any individual on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of any of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations offered by the Comfort Inn.  42 U.S.C. § 12182(a); 28 C.F.R. § 36.201(a). 
    2. Consistent with the requirements of the ADA, Guilford Tower will modify its policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of service animals at the Comfort Inn by persons with disabilities in accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(ii); 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(a).
    3. Consistent with the requirements of the ADA, Guilford Tower agrees that employees of the Comfort Inn will not require an individual with a disability who uses a service animal to provide documentation, such as proof that a service animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal.  28 C.F.R. § 36.302(c)(7).
  2. Guilford Tower will implement a Service Animal Policy:
    1. Within 14 days after the effective date of this Agreement, to ensure equal access for persons with disabilities who use service animals to the Comfort Inn, Guilford Tower and the Comfort Inn will:
      1. adopt the Service Animal Policy (“Policy”) attached hereto and incorporated by reference herein as Attachment A to this Agreement;
      2. distribute the Policy to all employees and managers of the Comfort Inn who have contact with the public;
      3. provide a copy of the Policy to all newly hired Comfort Inn employees and managers as part of its standard onboarding process for all new hires;
      4. post a copy of this Policy in a conspicuous location where employees can readily read the Policy; and
      5. make the policy available for any hotel guests who wish to, upon request, read the Policy.
    2. Wherever required by paragraph 12 above to be posted, displayed or kept on hand, the Policy shall be printed in a dark bold font on a contrasting background in the largest font that fits on two 8.5" by 11" pieces of paper.  Physical copies of the posted Policy will be refreshed, as needed, for the life of this Agreement. 
    3. Within 30 days of the effective date of this Agreement, Guilford Tower will provide written confirmation to the United States of the issuance and communication to employees and the posting of the Policy at the Comfort Inn.
    4. For the life of this Agreement, on an annual basis, Guilford Tower will redistribute the Policy to all hotel employees and managers who have contact with the public.  Guilford Tower will provide the United States with written confirmation of the issuance of this communication to employees.
  3. Guilford Tower will train its employees on the Service Animal Policy:
    1. Within 60 days of the effective date of this Agreement, Guilford Tower will ensure that all owners, managers and employees of the Comfort Inn receive training on the ADA requirements regarding individuals with disabilities who use service animals, including a review of the Department of Justice’s technical assistance document, Frequently Asked Questions About Service Animals and the ADA, available at: https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html.  Guilford Tower will notify the United States when the above training has been completed.
    2. Consistent with the requirements of the ADA and the Service Animal Policy, Guilford Tower will train its employees at the Comfort Inn that they may only make the following two inquiries of a potential hotel guest to determine whether an animal accompanying the guest qualifies as a service animal:
      1. Is the animal required because of a disability?
      2. What work or task is the animal trained to perform?

      Guilford Tower agrees, however, that employees of the Comfort Inn will not make such inquiries when it is readily apparent that an animal is a service animal trained to do work or perform tasks.  28 C.F.R. § 36.302(c)(7).

    3. Guilford Tower shall provide the training as described above on an annual basis thereafter for the life of this Agreement.
  4. Guilford Tower will Provide Notice to the Public that Service Animals are Welcome at Comfort Inn:
    1. Within 30 days of the effective date of this Agreement, the Comfort Inn will post in a conspicuous location in all public entryways of the hotel a sign prominently indicating “Service Animals Welcome.”  The signage will have a non-glare finish and will be printed in a dark, bold font with a 5/8 inch minimum character height on a contrasting light background.  The sign shall be mounted at 40 inches minimum above the finish floor to the baseline of the character and will be refreshed, as needed, for the life of this Agreement.
    2. Within 30 days of the execution of this Agreement, Guilford Tower will ensure that its website www.choicehotels.com/ComfortInn/Guilford includes “Service Animals Welcome” under the category “Amenities” and anywhere else where the website says “No Pets Allowed.”  The “Service Animals Welcome” text shall be of the same size and font as other listed Amenities.
  5. Guilford Tower will make the following modifications to improve accessibility for individuals with disabilities at the Comfort Inn:
    1. Parking
      1. Within six months of the execution of this Agreement, Guilford Tower shall ensure that:
        1. the sign identifying the van accessible parking space contains the designation “Van Accessible” in accordance with the 2010 Standards §§ 216.5 and 502.6; and
        2. a sign shall be provided at the left hand parking space and shall include the International Symbol of Accessibility and shall be 60 inches minimum above the ground surface measured to the bottom of the sign in accordance with the 2010 Standards §§ 216.5, 502.6, and 703.7.2.1.
    2. Accessible Route to Entrance and Signage
      1. Within six months of the execution of this Agreement, Guilford Tower shall ensure that:
        1. an accessible route complying with the 2010 Standards § 402 is marked on the asphalt parking lot from the access aisle to the main entrance;
        2. accessible entrances are identified by the International Symbol of Accessibility in compliance with § 703.7.2.1; and
        3. at any inaccessible entrance, there is signage complying with the 2010 Standards § 703.5 directing patrons to the nearest accessible entrance.
    3. Lobby and Breakfast Room
      1. Within one month of the execution of this Agreement, Guilford Tower shall:
        1. create a policy addressing the provision of table service for individuals with disabilities during breakfast hours that shall enumerate the procedures and protocols for staff members to follow to ensure that equivalent breakfast service is available for individuals with mobility disabilities at the hotel;
        2. create signage featuring the International Symbol of Accessibility to be prominently displayed on the breakfast area service counter alerting patrons that table service is readily available to individuals with mobility disabilities who are not able to reach breakfast items on the service counter due to its height; and
        3. train any and all managers and employees responsible for breakfast service on the policy required by subsection (i) above.
      2. Within three months of the execution of this Agreement, Guilford Tower shall ensure that at least five percent of the available seating in the lobby and breakfast area is located at accessible dining surfaces complying with the 2010 Standards § 902 as follows:
        1. Accessible dining and work surfaces shall have a clear floor space, 30 inches minimum by 48 inches maximum, complying with the 2010 Standards § 305 positioned for a forward approach; and shall have knee and toe clearance complying with § 306, extending 17 inches minimum under the table. 
        2. The tops of dining surfaces and work surfaces shall be 28 inches minimum and 34 inches maximum above the finish floor or ground in accordance with the 2010 Standards § 902.3. 
    4. Women’s Lobby Toilet Room
      1. Promptly, but no later than 1 month following the execution of this Agreement, Guilford Tower shall provide equivalent paper towel service for individuals with disabilities by placing power towels within reach range on the counter top of the lavatory.  28 C.F.R. § 36.302(a).
      2. Within two months of the execution of this Agreement, Guilford Tower shall:
        1. either remove the feminine products dispenser from the wall or lower the feminine product dispenser so that the high forward reach is 48 inches maximum and the low forward reach is 15 inches minimum above the finish floor in accordance with the 2010 Standards §§ 205.1, 309.3 and 308.2.1; and
        2. either remove the soap dispenser from the wall or relocate the soap dispenser so that a minimum of 12 inches is provided above the rear grab bar in accordance with the 2010 Standards §§ 213.2, 213.3.2, 604.5.2 and 609.3; and
        3. ensure that the rear wall grab bar is 36 inches long minimum and extends from the centerline of the water closet 12 inches minimum on one side and 24 inches minimum on the other side in accordance with the 2010 Standards §§ 213.2, 213.3.2 and 604.5.2.
    5. Men’s Lobby Toilet Room
      1. Within two months of the execution of this Agreement, Guilford Tower shall:
        1.  ensure that the flush control of the water closet is moved to the open side of the water closet in accordance with §§ 213.2, 213.3.2 and 604.6;
        2. either remove the soap dispenser from the wall or relocate the soap dispenser so that a minimum of 12 inches is provided above the rear grab bar in accordance with the 2010 Standards §§ 213.2, 213.3.2, 604.5.2 and 609.3; and
        3. ensure that the rear wall grab bar is 36 inches long minimum and extends from the centerline of the water closet 12 inches minimum on one side and 24 inches minimum on the other side in accordance with the 2010 Standards §§ 213.2, 213.3.2 and 604.5.2.
    6. Guest Rooms
      1. Within one month of the execution of this Agreement, Guilford Tower shall:
        1. ensure that there is a safe located in the employee-only area of the front desk where hotel guests with disabilities may leave valuables for safekeeping;
        2. place signage in both accessible guest rooms regarding the availability of the front desk safe; 
        3. train all front desk staff and management of the Comfort Inn to inform hotel guests booked in accessible rooms that they may place valuables in the safe at the front desk;
        4. train all hotel cleaning staff to place television remotes, ice buckets and cups, and other guest room elements for a high reach of 48 inches maximum and 15 inches minimum in the two designated accessible guest rooms in accordance with the 2010 Standards §§ 205.1, 308.1, 308.2.1, 308.3.1 and 309.3; and
        5. place a stop behind the refrigerator in the designated accessible guest rooms so that the refrigerator can no longer slide back and render the handle inaccessible to guests with disabilities.
      2. Within six months of the execution of this Agreement, Guilford Tower shall ensure that each of the two designated accessible guest rooms has:
        1. door locks that are located 34 inches minimum and 48 inches maximum above the finish floor in accordance with the 2010 Standards §§ 206.5.2 and 404.2.7;
        2. accessible routes to the sleeping area with a minimum clear width of 36 inches in accordance with the 2010 Standards §§ 206.2.4 and 403.3;
        3. a minimum of 36 inches of clear floor space on both sides of the bed in accordance with §§ 806.2.3 and 305;operable parts for the in-room HVAC system that are operable with one hand and do not require tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist in accordance with the 2010 Standards §§ 205.1 and 309.4;
        4. operable parts for the in-room shades that are operable with one hand and do not require tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist in accordance with the 2010 Standards §§ 205.1 and 309.4;
        5. operable parts for the in-room shades that are 48 inches maximum above the finish floor and 15 inches minimum above the finish floor in accordance with the 2010 Standards §§ 205.1, 308.1, 308.2.1, 308.3.1 and 309.3;
        6. closet rods with a high side reach that is 48 inches maximum above the finish floor in accordance with the 2010 Standards §§ 225.2, 308.2.1, 308.3.1 and 811.3; and
        7. accessible tables with a clear floor space, 30 inches minimum by 48 inches maximum, complying with the 2010 Standards § 305 positioned for a forward approach; and knee and toe clearance complying with § 306, extending 17 inches minimum under the table.  The table surface shall be 28 inches minimum and 34 inches maximum above the finish floor in accordance with the 2010 Standards § 902.3.
      3. Within one year of the execution of this Agreement, Guilford Tower shall ensure that the bathrooms in the two designated accessible guest rooms have the following features:
        1. flush controls of the water closet on the open sides of the water closets in accordance with §§ 213.2, 213.3.2 and 604.6;
        2. operable parts for lavatory drain stoppers that are operable with one hand and do not require tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist in accordance with the 2010 Standards §§ 205.1 and 309.4;
        3. shower spray units located 48 inches maximum above the finish floor in accordance with the 2010 Standards § 205.1, 309.3 and 308;
        4. centerline of the water closet 16 inches minimum to 18 inches maximum from the side wall in accordance with the 2010 Standards §§ 213.3.2 and 604.2;
        5. robe hooks located a maximum of 48 inches high above the finish floor in accordance with the 2010 Standards §§ 213.3.7, 308.2, 308.3 and 603.4; and
        6. bathroom mirrors located above countertops with the bottom edge of the reflecting surface 40 inches maximum above the finish floor or a full length mirror installed with the bottom edge of the reflecting surface 35 inches maximum above the finish floor in accordance with the 2010 Standards §§ 213.3.5 and 603.3.
      4. Within one year of the execution of this Agreement, Guilford Tower shall ensure that at least four guest rooms provide communication features complying with § 806.3 in accordance with §§ 224.4 and 224.5.
      5. Not more than ten percent of guest rooms required to provide mobility features complying with the 2010 Standards § 806.2 shall be used to satisfy the minimum number of guest rooms required to provide communication features in accordance with the 2010 Standards §§ 224.2, 224.5, and 806.2.
  6. Alterations
    1. Any alterations, as defined in 42 U.S.C. §12183 and 28 C.F.R. § 36.402(b), made to the Comfort Inn facility and not described in this Agreement shall comply in all respects with the ADA, its implementing regulations, and the 2010 Standards.
    2. If an alteration affects or could affect the usability of or access to an area of the facility that contains a primary function, that alteration shall be made so as to ensure that, to the maximum extent feasible, the path of travel to the altered areas are readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs, unless the cost and scope of such alterations is disproportionate to the cost of the overall alteration.  42 U.S.C. §12183(a); 28 C.F.R. § 36.403. 

    III. IMPLEMENTATION AND ENFORCEMENT OF AGREEMENT

    1. In consideration of the terms of this Agreement, the United States agrees to refrain from filing a civil suit for failure to comply with Title III of the ADA at the Comfort Inn; provided, however, that the United States reserves the right to file a civil lawsuit to enforce this Agreement.
    2. The United States does not assert that this Agreement or the modifications contemplated herein will bring the Comfort Inn into compliance with all aspects of the ADA, and nothing in this Agreement is intended to constitute an interpretation of the legal requirements of the ADA by the United States.  Rather, the parties enter into this Agreement for the purpose of compromising disputed claims and avoiding the risk and expenses of litigation.  This Agreement is a compromise and it shall not be used or introduced into evidence in any other case or proceeding other than between the parties to this Agreement.
    3. The United States may review compliance with this Agreement at any time.  Upon reasonable advance notice to Guilford Tower, Guilford Tower shall permit the United States and any person acting on its behalf unlimited access to the Comfort Inn to review compliance with the ADA and this Agreement, provided that such access does not interfere with the comfort, privacy or safety of the guests at the Comfort Inn, or unreasonably interfere with the management and operation of the Comfort Inn.
    4. If the United States believes that Guilford Tower has violated this Agreement or any requirement thereof, it agrees to notify Yogeshkumar B. Patel, 320 Boston Post Road, Guilford, CT 06437 as agent for Guilford Towers, in writing of the specific violation(s) alleged.  Guilford Towers shall have 30 days from its receipt of the notice to cure and/or respond in writing to the United States the alleged violation(s).  If the United States and Guilford Towers are unable to reach a satisfactory resolution of the issue or issues, the United States may commence a civil action in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut to enforce the terms of this Agreement, the ADA, or both.
    5. Guilford Towers shall provide certifications to the United States, every six months until full compliance with this Agreement is achieved, in the form of a narrative report and photos showing that the items within this Agreement that Guilford Towers has agreed to correct have been so corrected.  Guilford Towers shall include as an exhibit copies of any complaint, whether formal or informal, received during the reporting period alleging that the Comfort Inn facility did not comply with the ADA or that individuals with disabilities at the facility were subject to discrimination on the basis of disability.  The parties expressly agree that providing such certifications is essential to the enforcement of this Agreement, and that a failure to provide the certifications required by this paragraph constitutes a breach of this Agreement.
    6. All notices, demands, reports or other communication to be provided to the United States pursuant to this Agreement shall be in writing and delivered by U.S. mail or electronic mail to the following:

      David C. Nelson
      Assistant U.S. Attorneys
      U.S. Attorney’s Office
      157 Church Street, 25th Floor
      New Haven, CT 06510
      email: David.C.Nelson@usdoj.gov

    7. This Agreement is a public document.  A copy of this document or any information contained in it may be made available to any person.
    8. Failure by the United States to enforce this entire Agreement or any provision thereof with regard to any deadline or any other provision herein shall not be construed as a waiver of its right to do so with regard to other deadlines and provisions of this Agreement.
    9. 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.  This Agreement is limited to the facts set forth herein and it does not purport to remedy any other potential violations of the ADA, including violations of the alterations or new construction provisions of the ADA, or any other Federal law.  This Agreement does not affect the continuing responsibility of Guilford Tower and the Comfort Inn to comply with all aspects of the ADA.      
    10. 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 Guilford Tower 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.
    11. A signor of this document in a representative capacity for an entity represents that he or she is authorized to bind such entity to this Agreement.
    12. In the event Guilford seeks to transfer, or assign all or part of its interest in the Comfort Inn, or lease the premises, as a condition of sale, assignment, or lease, Guilford Tower shall obtain the written accession of the successor, assignee, or lessee, to any obligations remaining under this Agreement for the remaining term of the Agreement.
    13. 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.

 

New Haven, Connecticut
February 13, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guilford, Connecticut
February 12, 2020

FOR THE UNITED STATES:

JOHN H. DURHAM
United States Attorney for the
District of Connecticut

By: /s/
DAVID C. NELSON
JESSICA H. SOUFER
Assistant United States Attorney
157 Church Street, 25th Floor
New Haven, CT 06510

 

FOR GUILFORD TOWER, LLC:

By: /s/
Yogeshkumar B. Patel
Member, Guilford Tower, LLC

Attachment A: SERVICE ANIMAL POLICY

The Comfort Inn in Guilford, Connecticut, is committed to making reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and procedures to permit the use of service animals by persons with disabilities.  Service animals play an important role in ensuring the independence of people with disabilities, and it is therefore our policy to welcome into our hotel any animal that is individually trained to assist a person with a disability.

What is a Service Animal?

Service animals include any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for individuals with disabilities, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.  Service animals do not always have a harness, a sign, or a symbol indicating that they are service animals.  A service animal is not a pet.  Service animals assist people with disabilities in many different ways, such as:

Requirements with Regard to Service Animals:

Most of the time, people with disabilities who use service animals may be easily identified without any need for questioning.  If we can tell by looking, it is our policy not to make an individual feel unwelcome by asking questions.  If we are unsure whether an animal meets the definition of a service animal, it is our policy to ask the individual only two questions when the individual enters the store:

If the individual says yes to the first question and explains the work or tasks that the animal is trained to perform, we will welcome the person and service animal into the hotel without asking any additional questions about his or her service animal.  We will not ask an individual questions about his or her disability.  We will not ask an individual to show a license, certification, or special ID card as proof of their animal’s training.  We will not ask an individual with a service animal to use a specific entrance or exit in the hotel or to use only a specific room in the hotel.  We must permit service animals to accompany individuals with disabilities to all areas of the hotel normally used by customers or other members of the public and permit them to stay in a hotel room that they have booked or otherwise paid.  We will treat individuals with service animals with the same courtesy and respect that the Comfort Inn in Guilford, Connecticut, affords to all of our customers.

Manager Responsibilities:

The Comfort Inn has the right to exclude a service animal from its hotel if the dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it, or the dog is not housebroken.  We will not exclude a particular service animal based on past experience with other animals or based on fear unrelated to an individual service animal’s actual behavior.  Each situation will be considered individually.  When there is a legitimate reason to ask that a service animal be removed, staff must offer the person with the disability the opportunity to obtain goods or services of the hotel without the animal’s presence.  Only an owner of the Comfort Inn or a manager he or she designates can make the decision to exclude a service animal.

By signing below, I, _______________________, acknowledge that I have reviewed and understand the Comfort Inn, Guilford, Connecticut, Service Animal Policy.

Dated:

Employee Signature