SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT BETWEEN
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
AND
GPM INVESTMENTS, LLC
D.J. No. # 202-79-343

I. INTRODUCTION

  1. The parties to this Settlement Agreement are the United States of America and GPM Investments, LLC (“GPM”), located at 8565 Magellan Parkway, Richmond, VA 23227.
  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, as amended, and the relevant regulations implementing title III, 28 C.F.R. pt. 36.
  3. Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of a 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. GPM Investments, LLC is a company based in Richmond, Virginia, that own or operates convenience stores in over 20 states.  GPM is the sixth largest convenience store chain in the United States.  The convenience stores owned or operated by GPM are a place of public accommodation within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 12181(7)(B), (F), and 28 C.F.R. § 36.104 (5).  GPM is thus a public accommodation subject to the requirements of Title III of the ADA.   28 C.F.R. § 36.104. 

II. BACKGROUND

  1. The Department received a complaint that a convenience store operated by GPM had denied access to the store to an individual accompanied by a service dog.  The Complainant, an individual with a disability, alleged that GPM denied him an equal opportunity to enjoy its goods, services, and facilities because of the presence of the service dog.
  2. Upon investigation, the Department learned that in addition to the allegations that it confirmed, GPM did not have any specific policies or training in place regarding title III of the ADA as it applies to service animals.
  3. Individuals with disabilities, including individuals with disabilities who use service animals, are protected by title III of the ADA.  42 U.S.C. § 12102; 28 C.F.R. § 36.105.
  4. Title III of the ADA requires that public accommodations generally modify policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a service animal by an individual with a disability.  28 C.F.R. § 36.302(c). 
  5. The parties wish to amicably resolve this matter without litigation.  The United States believes that voluntary 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.

III. REMEDIAL ACTION

  1. Consistent with title III of the ADA, GPM will not discriminate against any individual on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of its goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations 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, GPM will 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. ADA Compliance Policy: GPM agrees that all persons with disabilities, including those accompanied by service animals, will be welcome at convenience stores owned or operated by GPM.  Accordingly, GPM currently is developing an ADA Compliance Policy, which GPM agrees to adopt and abide by within thirty (30) days of this Agreement.  GPM agrees that the ADA Compliance Policy will incorporate all the requirements related to service animals contained in the sample Service Animal Policy (Attachment A) included as part of this Agreement.  Such requirements include, among others, that GPM will not refuse to admit a person with a disability or provide its goods or services to a person with a disability because that person uses a service animal.  GPM also will not charge a person with a disability an 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: GPM agrees to maintain the ADA Compliance Policy in its convenience stores and on its website.  Within ninety (90) days, GPM will maintain an electronic copy of this Policy in all stores operated by GPM. This Policy will be accessible by store employees for their own reference or for customers who wish to, upon request, read the Policy.  In addition, GPM agrees to begin including the statement “Service Animals Welcome,” “Persons with disabilities accompanied by service animals are welcome here,” or similar language, on its waterfall signs in all stores operated by GPM.  GPM will begin installing new waterfall signs with the “Service Animals Welcome,” “Persons with disabilities accompanied by service animals are welcome here,” or similar language statement within ninety days of the effective date of this Agreement at fas mart® branded stores. Thereafter, whenever it replaces the waterfall signs at any store operated by GPM, it will use the updated language. Within one hundred twenty (120) days of the effective date of this Agreement, GPM will provide written confirmation to the United States of the issuance and communication to employees and that the Company has updated the waterfall signs at all of the fas mart branded stores to include the updated language.
  4. Training: GPM leadership, management, and staff will receive internal communications through GPM’s payroll software regarding 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.  Within one hundred eighty (180) days of the effective date of this Agreement, GPM will update its  employee handbook to include specific reference to the service animal policy as well as the link to the Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA referenced in Section 13 for all new employees to review and acknowledge as part of the GPM employment handbook acknowledgment form.  GPM will notify the Department when it has issued its revised employee handbook and will send certification signed by GPM’s SVP of Human Resources confirming that the internal communications appeared daily in the payroll software for a fifteen day period as well as a copy of the internal communication that includes reference to the Department’s technical assistance document.
  5. Within ten (10) days after receiving the Complainant’s signed release (a blank release form is at Attachment B) and completed W-9, GPM will send a check in the amount of one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) made out to the Complainant (with his full name on the check).  This check is compensation to the Complainant pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 12188(b)(2)(B) for the effects of the alleged discrimination described in paragraph 5 above.  The check shall be mailed to:
  6. Financial Litigation Unit
    United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia
    101 W. Main Street #8000
    Norfolk, VA  23510

    A copy of the check shall be sent to:

    Steven Gordon
    Assistant United States Attorney
    2100 Jamieson Avenue
    Alexandria, VA  22314
  7. GPM will not retaliate against or otherwise coerce any individual with a disability who uses a service animal for filing a complaint with the Department or otherwise exercising rights protected by the ADA.  42 U.S.C. § 12203(a).

IV. IMPLEMENTATION

  1. This Settlement Agreement cannot be modified or amended except 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 portion of it has been violated, it will raise its concerns to GPM 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) within thirty (30) days of the date the United States provides notice to GPM, the United States may institute a civil action in appropriate Federal District Court to enforce this Agreement or the requirements of title III.
  3. It is a violation of this Agreement for GPM 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 Attachments A and B, 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 GPM’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 GPM or the United States upon 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 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. This Agreement is not intended to remedy any potential violations of the ADA or any other law, other than those specifically addressed by this Agreement in Paragraphs 5, 6, and 8.  Nothing in this Agreement will preclude the United States from filing a separate action under the ADA for any alleged violation not covered by this Agreement.
  11. The person signing this Agreement for GPM represents that he is authorized to bind GPM to this Agreement.
  12. This Agreement does not constitute an admission by GPM of a violation of any federal, state, or local law.  It is further understood and agreed that this settlement is a compromise of a real dispute and that the remedial action agreed to by GPM are not to be construed as an admission of liability, but rather that liability is expressly denied.

FOR GPM INVESTMENTS, LLC

By: /s/ Maury Bricks
Maury Bricks      
General Counsel
GPM Investments, LLC
8565 Magellan Parkway
Suite 400
Richmond, VA  23227

Dated: 3/28/19    

FOR THE UNITED STATES

G. Zachary Terwilliger
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY

By: /s/ Steven Gordon
Steven Gordon
Assistant United States Attorney
United States Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Virginia
2100 Jamieson Avenue
Alexandria, VA  22314

Dated: 4/1/19

Attachment A: POLICY REGARDING SERVICE ANIMALS
FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES

GPM Investments, LLC 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 business 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 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:

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 business 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 charge a surcharge to an individual with a disability accompanied by a service dog nor will we impose any other requirements generally not applicable to people without pets.  We treat individuals with service animals with the same courtesy and respect that affords to all of our customers.

Manager Responsibilities:

GPM Investments, LLC and stores owned or operated by GPM Investments, LLC has the right to exclude a service animal from a store only if the dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it, or if the dog is not housebroken.  We will not exclude a particular service animal based on past experience with other animals or based on fear that is not related to an individual service animal's actual behavior.  Each situation will be considered individually.  In the event a store owned, operated, or franchised by GPM excludes a service animal because it is out of control, we will not refuse service to the individual with a disability when he or she is not accompanied by that particular service animal.  Only the Manager of a store owned oroperated by GPM, or someone he or she designates, can make the decision to exclude a service animal.