SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT BETWEEN
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND
EL AGUILA MEXICAN RESTAURANT
D.J. No. 202-20-57

  1. INTRODUCTION
    1. The parties to this Settlement Agreement are the United States of America and the El Aguila Mexican Restaurant ("El Aguila"), located at 174 East Oak Street, McRae, GA 31055.
    2. 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, and the relevant regulation implementing title III, 28 C.F.R. pt. 36.
    3. Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination 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. 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a); 28 C.F.R. 36.201(a).
    4. El Aguila is a restaurant that operates in McRae, Georgia. It is open to the public and is a place of public accommodation within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 12181(7)(b) and 28 C.F.R. § 36.104.
  2. BACKGROUND
    1. This matter was initiated by a complaint filed under title III of the ADA with the Department.
    2. The complainant is a veteran with back injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD"), and uses a service animal. The complainant is an individual with disabilities, within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 12102 and 28 C.F.R. § 36.105.
    3. On June 6, 2018, the complainant and his wife attempted to enter El Aguila. An El Aguila employee refused to seat the family because the complainant was accompanied by his service dog. The complainant was then asked to leave and complied.
    4. Because of the denial of access to the restaurant, the complainant and his wife felt humiliated in front of other customers and restaurant staff.
    5. El Aguila admits that it did not permit the complainant and his wife to dine in the restaurant because of the service dog, and claims that its employee was not up-to-date on the different uses of service dogs.
    6. The United States believes that resolution of this matter through this Agreement is in the public interest. In consideration of, and consistent with, the terms of this Agreement, the United States agrees to refrain from undertaking further investigation or filing a civil suit under title III in this matter, except as provided in the Implementation section of this Agreement.
  3. REMEDIAL ACTION
    1. Consistent with title III of the ADA, El Aguila shall not discriminate against any individual on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the services it provides by excluding or providing unequal treatment to persons with disabilities, including those who use service animals. 42 U.S.C § 12182; 28 C.F.R. §§ 36.201, 36.202. Specifically, El Aguila shall modify policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a service animal by an individual with a disability. 42 U.S.C. §12182(b)(2)(A); 28 C.F.R. §§ 36.302(a), (c).
    2. Service Animal Policy: El Aguila agrees that persons with disabilities, including those accompanied by service animals, will be welcome in the restaurant. El Aguila agrees to adopt and abide by the Service Animal Policy (Attachment A) attached to this Agreement. El Aguila shall not refuse to admit a person with a disability because that person uses a service animal. It also 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 use a service animal.
    3. Publication of Policy: El Aguila agrees to prominently post the Service Animal Policy in its restaurant. El Aguila will also post a statement in all future advertising that states El Aguila complies with the ADA and welcomes service dogs. El Aguila shall provide a copy of the notice to the United States within ten (10) days of posting.
    4. Training: El Aguila owners, management and staff shall undergo training regarding the ADA requirements to accommodate individuals with disabilities who use service animals¸ including a review of the Department's technical assistance document, Frequently Asked Questions About Service Animals and the ADA, available at: https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html. El Aguila shall arrange for and ensure that appropriate training on the ADA and service animals is conducted within one hundred twenty (120) days of the effective date of this Agreement. Thereafter, all new employees will be trained on the requirements of the ADA within thirty (30) days of their hire date. El Aguila will notify the Department when it has completed this training.
    5. El Aguila shall not retaliate against or otherwise coerce any individual who uses a service dog for filing a complaint with the Department or otherwise exercising rights protected by ADA 42 U.S.C. § 12203(a).
  4. IMPLEMENTATION
    1. This Settlement Agreement cannot be modified or amended except in writing, agreed to 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 portion of it has been violated, it will raise concerns with El Aguila and the parties will attempt to resolve the concerns in good faith. If the parties are unable to reach a satisfactory resolution of the issue(s) raised within thirty (30) days of the date that the United States provides notice to El Aguila, the United States may institute a civil action in the appropriate Federal District Court to enforce this Agreement or the requirements of title III.
    3. It is a violation of this Agreement for El Aguila 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 timeframe imposed by the Agreement.
    4. Failure by the United States to enforce any provision or deadline in this Agreement shall not be construed as a waiver of the United States' right to enforce any deadline or provision of this Agreement. The Agreement, including Attachment A, 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, will be enforceable under its provisions.
    5. 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.
    6. This Agreement does not affect El Aguila's continuing responsibility to comply with all applicable aspects of title III of the ADA.
    7. A copy of this document or any information contained in it will be made available to any person by El Aguila or the United States on request.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. The person signing this Agreement for El Aguila represents that he is authorized to bind El Aguila to this Agreement.

 

FOR EL AGUILA:

/s/
Mark W. Straughan
STRAUGHAN & STRAUGHAN
45 Parsonage Street
Post Office Box 55567
McRae-Helena, GA 31055

Dated: August 14, 2018

PASCUAL VEGA, Owner
EL AGUILA MEXICAN RESTAURANT
174 East Oak Street
McRae, GA 31055
(229) 460-5466 (telephone)

Dated: August 14, 2018

FOR THE UNITED STATES:

BOBBY L. CHRISTINE
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY

/s/
Bradford C. Patrick
Assistant United States Attorney
South Carolina Bar No. 102092
Post Office Box 8970
Savannah, Georgia 31412
(912) 652-4422 (telephone)
bradford.patrick@usdoj.gov

Dated: August 21, 2018