Justice Department responds to Florida service animal complaint
Justice Department resolves ADA service dog complaint in Florida
The Justice Department reached an agreement under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with The Pawn Shop and Tax Service, Inc., (The Pawn Shop) in Pensacola, Florida to resolve a complaint under title III of the ADA. The Department’s investigation found that the manager of The Pawn Shop asked a veteran who uses a service dog to leave because the manager mistakenly believed the dog was a pet, not a service dog. Public accommodations must permit Individuals who use service dogs, including veterans with disabilities who use service dogs for disabilities such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, or mobility disabilities, into their establishments.
The settlement agreement requires The Pawn Shop to adopt and implement a service dog policy consistent with the ADA; provide training on the service dog policy to employees and managers; and post the service dog policy in the Shop and on social media. The Pawn Shop cooperated with the Department throughout the investigation.
People interested in finding out more about the ADA or this agreement can call the toll-free ADA Information Line at 1-800-514-0301 or 1-800-514-0383 (TDD), or access the ADA website at https://www.ada.gov.
SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT BETWEEN
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
THE PAWN SHOP, INC.
The parties to this Settlement Agreement are the United States of America and The Pawn Shop, Inc. (“Respondent”). The Respondent has two stores The Pawn Shop and Tax Service, located at 1802 West Fairfield, Pensacola, Florida 32505, and The Pawn Shop and Tax Service 2 located at 8959 Pensacola Avenue, Pensacola, Florida 32534 (“Respondent’s Shops”).
The United States Department of Justice (“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.
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).
Respondent is a for profit corporation that operates two pawn shops open to the public in Pensacola, Florida. Respondent sells items and offers secured loans with items used as collateral at Respondent’s Shops, and during tax season also operates a tax preparation service out of Respondent’s Shops. Respondent’s Shops are sales and service establishments, and are places of public accommodation within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 12181(7)(e), (f), and 28 C.F.R. § 36.104.
This matter was initiated by a complaint filed with the Department. The complainant is a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), anxiety, and physical disabilities, who 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.
The complainant tries to avoid anxiety provoking situations and confrontations that can trigger his PTSD. On July 8, 2017, the complainant went to the Respondent’s Shop at 1802 West Fairfield with his son and was accompanied by his service dog. A manager refused to permit the complainant to remain in the store with his service dog, citing another employee’s fear of dogs. The complainant was upset and explained that the dog is a service dog, individually trained to assist him with his disability.
The manager and the complainant argued, and the manager directed the complainant and his son to leave. The complainant and his son left the store.
Individuals with disabilities, including psychiatric or mobility disabilities, are protected by the ADA. 42 U.S.C. § 12102; 28 C.F.R. § 36.105.
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). Respondent admits that it discriminated against the complainant when it refused to allow the complainant to remain in the store with his service animal.
The parties wish to 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 action under the ADA in this matter, except as provided in the Implementation section of this Agreement.
III. REMEDIAL ACTION
Consistent with Title III of the ADA, Respondent will not discriminate against any individual on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of its goods and services 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, within fourteen (14) days of the effective date of this agreement, Respondent 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).
Service Animal Policy: Respondent agrees that all persons with disabilities, including those accompanied by service animals, will be welcome in Respondent’s Shops. Respondent agrees to adopt and abide by the Service Animal Policy (Attachment A) attached to this Agreement, and to revise its employee manual accordingly. Respondent’s Shops will not refuse to admit a person with a disability because that person uses a service animal. Respondent also agrees not to 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 at Respondent’s Shops.
Publication of Policy: Within fourteen (14) days of the effective date of this agreement, Respondent will prominently post the service animal policy in Respondent’s Shops and on its Facebook page and Instagram account. Respondent will also post a notice in all future advertising stating that Respondent’s Shops welcome individuals with disabilities and their service dogs, consistent with the ADA. Respondent will provide a copy of the notice to the United States within ten (10) days of posting.
Training: Respondent and its management and staff at Respondent’s Shops will 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. Respondent will arrange for and conduct appropriate training on the ADA and service animals within thirty (30) days of the effective date of this Agreement. Respondent will notify the Department when it has completed this training.
Respondent will not retaliate against or otherwise coerce any individual with a disability who uses a service dog for filing a complaint with the Department or otherwise exercising rights protected by the ADA. 42 U.S.C. § 12203(a).
This Settlement Agreement cannot be modified or amended except in writing, agreed to and signed by the Parties.
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 with Respondent 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 within thirty (30) days of the date the United States provides notice to Respondent the United States may institute a civil action in an appropriate Federal District Court to enforce this Agreement or the ADA.
It is a violation of this Agreement for Respondent 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.
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.
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.
This Agreement does not affect Respondent’s continuing responsibility to comply with all applicable aspects of Title III of the ADA.
A copy of this document will be made available to any person by Respondent on request.
This Agreement may be executed in counterparts, each copy of which will be considered an original and taken together constitute one agreement.
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.
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.
The person signing this Agreement for Respondent represents that he is authorized to bind it to this Agreement.
FOR THE PAWN SHOP, INC.
By: /s/ John O’Hern
JOHN O’HERN, President
1802 W. Fairfield
Pensacola, FL 32505
Date: July 11, 2018
FOR THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
JOHN M. GORE
Acting Assistant Attorney General
Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division
REBECCA B. BOND, Chief
KATHLEEN P. WOLFE
Special Litigation Counsel
KEVIN J. KIJEWSKI, Deputy Chief
Disability Rights Section, Civil Rights Division
By: /s/ Beth A. Esposito
BETH A. ESPOSITO, Trial Attorney
Disability Rights Section, Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W. – NYA
Washington, DC 20530
(202) 305-1130 (telephone)
(202) 305-9775 (facsimile)
August 1, 2018