The United States Attorney’s Office, in coordination with the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division is responsible for enforcing the federal civil rights laws in the Southern District of Alabama. The federal civil rights laws enforced by this office include the following:
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA)
Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA)
Fair Housing Act (FHA)
Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE)
Police Misconduct provision of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994
Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA)
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 (EEOA)
Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act (USERRA)
Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA)
Voting Rights Act (VRA)
In addition, the United States Attorney’s Office’s Criminal Division prosecutes violations of the criminal civil rights laws, including laws prohibiting hate crimes and the use of unreasonable force by those acting under color of law.
Our office welcomes information from the public that brings to our attention possible violations of our nation's civil rights laws. At the same time, while the scope of our civil rights practice is broad, the authority of the United States Department of Justice to investigate and seek relief for individual complaining parties for alleged civil rights violations is limited. We may investigate and seek to remedy alleged discriminatory conduct only where and in the manner specifically authorized by law. Our office has authority to investigate and seek to remedy patterns and practices of certain unlawful discriminatory conduct. If an individual case is of significant public interest, we may pursue those claims. More frequently, the U. S. Attorney’s Office handles individual civil rights cases only after they have been investigated and referred to us by another federal agency, such as the following:
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (for employment discrimination)
United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (for housing discrimination)
United States Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights (for discrimination in education)
United States Department of Labor (for violations of USERRA)
Office of Special Counsel (for immigration related unfair employment practices)
If you have information concerning a potential violation of the federal civil rights laws that you wish to bring to our attention, you may complete the Civil Rights Unit Complaint Form (English) or Civil Rights Unit Complaint Form (Spanish) and mail or fax it to the Civil Rights Coordinator in our Civil Division.
Civil Rights Coordinator, Civil Division
United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Alabama
63 South Royal Street, Suite 600
Mobile, Alabama 36602
Attention: Civil Rights Coordinator, Civil Division
Recent Court Cases And Out-Of-Court Settlements
United States v. Ybarra, et al., dba Cotton’s Restaurant.
This case was filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act. On September 17, 2013, a Consent Decree was entered by the District Court in the matter of Cotton’s Restaurant in the resort community of Orange Beach, Alabama located on the Gulf of Mexico. Following a complaint that a customer could not access the restaurant which was located on the upper level of the existing construction facility and to which the only access was a series of steps and stairs, the U. S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Alabama investigated under the authority of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the implementing regulations. During the investigation and interim report findings of architectural barriers violations, the owner of the building was hesitant to perform any remedial renovations to remove barriers. The lessee (managers of the restaurant) then purchased it (for $750,000) and with the assistance of architectural consultants the parties were able to design accessible parking, a chair lift, a completely new female’s accessible restroom, and the redesign of the old restrooms into an male’s accessible restroom. Dining tables of wheelchair height were acquired and are to be placed in “view” locations of the Gulf of Mexico beach and water scenes. The cost of the renovation for the removal of barriers was approximately $250,000. Policies have been adopted by the restaurant to address the needs of persons with mobility disabilities as well as persons who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, blind, deaf-blind, and policies relevant to service dogs. Training regarding ADA compliance is required of Management and Staff. The availability of barrier free access and dining will be included in the restaurant’s advertising and website notices. Because the respondent quickly cooperated to remove the barriers to accessibility, no civil monetary penalty was imposed by the Department. The complainant did not desire damages, but simply an accessible restaurant; therefore, he declined to seek damages to which he would have been entitled. The Consent Decree extends for three years and provides regular monitoring by the U. S. Attorney’s Office for compliance.
United States v. Pina’s Mobile Home Park, Arthur D. Witherington, Pina Witherington.
This case was brought under the Fair Housing Act which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, family status or disabilities. The charge of discrimination issued by HUD was that the housing provider had treated families with children below the age of 18 differently. In particular, the housing provider was alleged to have limited families to a maximum of two children and charged an additional monthly fee per child who lived in the mobile home park. The case was prosecuted civilly as a wrongful pattern and practice of housing discrimination. The complainant had three children and believed it was discriminatory to be limited to a certain size family and to be charged extra per child. Pina’s Mobile Home Park paid over $100,000 in damages to nearly 40 families who showed proof they had been overcharged. In addition, a $30,000 civil penalty was paid to the United States as a partial vindication of the public harm done by the housing provider. In addition, all staff who dealt with the public in renting and managing apartments had to be trained in Fair Housing Act rules and requirements. The Consent Decree extends for 4 years and provides regularly monitoring by the U. S. Attorney’s Office for compliance.
Unites States and Jeremiah Stadtlander v. Warren Properties, Inc., et al.
This case was brought under the Fair Housing Act which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, family status or disabilities. The charge of discrimination issued by HUD was that the housing provider had not made reasonable modifications (changes, revisions) in its policies to allow the complainant to transfer to a ground floor unit. When he applied for an apartment, the complainant was using full leg braces and crutches to get around. Although he said was promised a ground floor unit, he was never provided one and during his stay there he fell on the iron steps, resulting in permanent damage such that he must now use a wheelchair to get around. Warren Properties paid $1,250,000 in damages and costs to settle the case and agreed to sweeping changes to how its 85 properties across the country in 15 states handle their nearly 12,000 rental units when a person with disabilities makes a request for a reasonable accommodation. Warren Properties also hired a specially trained Reasonable Accommodation Facilitator to assist in each request made by a person with disabilities or anyone associated with the care of a person with disabilities. In addition, all staff who dealt with the public in renting and managing apartments had to be trained in Fair Housing Act rules and requirements. The Consent Decree extends for 4 years and provides regularly monitoring by the U. S. Attorney’s Office for compliance.
United States v. Wales West RV Park
This case was filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The RV park had refused to allow the bi-racial infant foster son of a white couple use the swimming pool and other common facilities when they heard that the child had HIV/AIDS. The RV park paid $36,000 in damages and paid a $10,000 penalty to the United States. Non-discrimination policies were required to be adopted, training of personnel and monitoring by the Department of Justice was implemented.
Consent Decree Amendment to Consent Decree
Shanghai Cottage at Fairhope, Inc.
This was a matter brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act when a person with disabilities (blind) who used a service dog to assist him, was denied access to a restaurant in Fairhope, AL. The restaurant agreed to pay $2,500 in civil penalty to the United States to settle the matter. The complainant declined any monetary damages himself, but asked that any money be contributed to Guiding Eyes for the Blind which trains guide dogs. The restaurant also adopted a non-discrimination policy that dealt specifically with persons with disabilities including blindness. Employees were also required to be trained in ADA matters.
Dragon City Chinese Buffet
This was a matter brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act when a person with disabilities (blind) who used a service dog to assist her, was denied access to a restaurant in Daphne, AL. The restaurant agreed to pay $2,500 in civil penalty to the United States and $2,500 in damages to the claimant to resolve the matter. The restaurant also adopted a non-discrimination policy that dealt specifically with persons with disabilities including blindness. Employees were also required to be trained in ADA matters. As a result of this second restaurant being charged with discrimination, the United States Attorney has had a service dog policy translated into Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese and is making the policy (which helps instruct and train restaurant and other businesses’ staff in how to work with persons with service dogs) available at no charge in an effort to prevent discrimination on the basis of disabilities from occurring. The polices are listed below:
Policy Regarding Service Animals, 8-10-2012 English Version
Policy Regarding Service Animals, 11-1-2012 Spanish Version
Policy Regarding Service Animals, 8-10-2012 Chinese Translation - Simplified
Policy Regarding Service Animals, 8-10-2012 Chinese Translation - Traditional