Justice Department Sues Colorado Attorney for Disability Discrimination
WASHINGTON – The United States has filed a lawsuit against Patric LeHouillier, an attorney based in Colorado Springs, Colo., alleging that he violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by denying a woman with a service animal access to his offices, the Justice Department announced. The complaint, filed today in federal court in Denver, alleges that the attorney denied access to a woman, her husband and her attorney because the woman was accompanied by her service animal, an Australian Shepherd dog trained to provide disability-related assistance.
"The Americans with Disabilities Act ensures that individuals with disabilities are guaranteed the same rights and access granted to everyone, and it has prohibited discrimination against individuals who use service dogs for almost 20 years," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The Justice Department is committed to enforcing the ADA to protect the rights of persons with disabilities and to ensuring that all services providers understand their obligation to provide equal access."
A service animal is individually trained to work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. Service animals – most commonly dogs – perform a wide variety of functions. Examples of these functions include guiding persons who are blind or have low vision; alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to sounds; warning persons about impending seizures or other medical conditions; performing a variety of tasks for persons with psychiatric disabilities and picking up items, opening doors, flipping switches, providing physical support and pulling wheelchairs for individuals with mobility disabilities.
Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination by lawyers, doctors, hospitals, restaurants, hotels, retail stores, private transportation providers and other private businesses and nonprofit organizations that provide services to the public. Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination by public entities, including state and local governments and public transportation providers. All of these entities are prohibited from excluding individuals with disabilities from their facilities, services and programs because they use service animals. If any of these entities has a rule excluding pets or other animals, it must make an exception to that rule and permit an individual with a disability to be accompanied by a service animal.
More information about today’s lawsuit, the ADA and ADA rights and responsibilities relating to service animals is available on the ADA home page at http://www.ada.gov. This information includes two publications specifically addressing service animal access: "ADA Business Brief: Service Animals" and "Commonly Asked Questions About Service Animals in Places of Business." Those interested in obtaining copies of these documents or additional information can also call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA Information Line (800) 514-0301 or (800) 514-0383 (TTY).