Disability Rights Cases
On May 16, 2023, the Department of Justice issued a Letter of Findings to Los Angeles County under Title II of the ADA after investigating physical accessibility for persons with mobility and vision disabilities at the County's vote centers during the 2020 primary and general elections and 2022 general election. In addition, the Department reviewed other aspects of the County's voting programs, including curbside voting and ballot drop boxes. The Department concluded that the County, by reason of disability, excluded voters with disabilities from participation in and denied them the benefits of the County's voting services, programs, or activities, or subjected those individuals to discrimination, in violation of Title II and its implementing regulations.
On June 29, 2023, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County after its investigation determined that the County discriminated against people with disabilities at vote centers, ballot drop boxes, and curbside voting during recent elections in violation of Title II of the ADA. On May 16, 2023, the Department of Justice issued a Letter of Findings to Los Angeles County concluding that the County, by reason of disability, excluded voters with disabilities from participation in and denied them the benefits of the County's voting services, programs, or activities, or subjected those individuals to discrimination, in violation of Title II. The Department seeks a court order directing the County to comply with the ADA, promptly develop a plan to remedy the alleged violations, and not further discriminate against individuals with disabilities.
On February 15, 2024, the United States filed a complaint against the State of Tennessee and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) for violating Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The complaint alleges that the State and the TBI subject people to harsher criminal penalties solely because of their human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) status by maintaining and enforcing Tennessee’s aggravated prostitution statute. The aggravated prostitution statute elevates what would otherwise be misdemeanor conduct to a felony because the individual has HIV, regardless of any actual risk of harm. Aggravated prostitution is also categorized as a “violent sexual offense” mandating registration as a sex offender, in most cases for life.
On December 1, 2023, the United States issued a letter of findings to the State, the TBI, and the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office notifying them that they violated the ADA by maintaining and enforcing the state’s aggravated prostitution statute. That letter of findings asked the State, the TBI, and the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office to stop enforcing the aggravated prostitution law, to remove affected individuals from the registry, and to take other measures to redress the discrimination.
On February 14, 2024, the Justice Department issued a Letter of Findings to Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) in Lincoln, Nebraska, finding that the school district violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by denying some deaf and hard of hearing students an equal opportunity to attend their neighborhood schools. Following a comprehensive investigation, the department found that, when LPS believes that a student needs American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation, LPS requires the student to attend a cluster school serving deaf and hard of hearing students. In applying this policy, LPS does not consider the individualized needs of deaf and hard of hearing students, denies them an equal opportunity to participate in neighborhood school and high school choice programs and fails to provide effective communication to some deaf and hard of hearing students. LPS’s cluster school requirement also harms the impacted students’ parents who incur transportation costs taking their children to the distant cluster schools. The letter asks the school district to change its policies and procedures, designate an ADA coordinator, train staff, and pay compensatory damages.
On January 31, 2024, the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania (UJS) agreed to pay $100,000 and to encourage all its component courts to adopt new policies to ensure that individuals under Pennsylvania state court supervision can take lawfully prescribed medications to treat opioid use disorder (OUD). The settlement agreement resolved the Justice Department's lawsuit against the UJS, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, and the Blair, Jefferson, Lackawanna and Northumberland County Courts of Common Pleas.
The United States filed its original complaint on February 24, 2022, asserting that UJS courts violated Title II of the ADA by implementing administrative policies categorically limiting or prohibiting the use of lawfully prescribed medication for the treatment of OUD by individuals in court supervision programs. The United States had previously notified the UJS that its courts had engaged in discrimination in a letter of findings issued on February 2, 2022. The District Court dismissed the United States' original complaint on April 21, 2023, without prejudice and the United States filed an amended complaint on May 22, 2023. A second motion to dismiss by the Defendants and an opposition filed by the United States were pending before the court at the time of resolution.
On January 31, 2024, the Justice Department filed a statement of interest explaining how the ADA's equal opportunity and reasonable modification requirements apply in the voting context. The statement of interest was filed in In Re Georgia SB 202, a consolidated lawsuit challenging restrictions on absentee and in-person voting under Georgia Senate Bill SB 202 (“SB 202”). One of the private lawsuits alleges that SB 202 fails to provide people with disabilities an equal opportunity to vote absentee and in-person or make reasonable modifications to avoid disability-based discrimination, in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The department’s brief explains that, under the ADA, voters with disabilities must have an equal opportunity to vote by a particular method as do voters without disabilities, and that this equal opportunity requirement is separate from the requirement that public entities make reasonable modifications.
On January 30, 2024, the United States filed a Complaint against MedStar Health, Inc., a leading healthcare provider in Maryland and the greater Washington, D.C., region. The lawsuit, filed under Title III of the ADA, alleges that MedStar Health denied people with disabilities equal access to medical care by excluding their necessary support persons. The suit alleges that MedStar Health failed to modify visitor restrictions so that people with certain disabilities, which affected their ability to independently access medical care, could be accompanied by their support persons (such as a family member, companion, or aide). These included individuals with dementia, intellectual disabilities, or autism spectrum disorder whose disabilities prevented them from providing medical history or understanding medical directions. As a result, they were unable to receive equal care without the assistance of their support person.
On January 30, 2024, the United States simultaneously filed a proposed Consent Decree to resolve the allegations of the Complaint. Under the proposed Consent Decree, MedStar Health has agreed to pay a total of $440,000 to compensate affected individuals. MedStar Health will also revise its policies to ensure ADA compliance, train its workforce on the new policies, and report to the Department on any future exclusion of support persons, as defined in the Decree.
On December 5, 2022, the United States executed a settlement agreement with the state of Alabama's Medicaid Agency (Alabama Medicaid), under Title II of the ADA regarding access to health services. The agreement will ensure that Alabama Medicaid recipients with Hepatitis C (HCV) who also use alcohol or illicit drugs, including those with a substance abuse disorder (SUD), will be provided equal access to medications to treat their hepatitis. Alabama Medicaid previously maintained a sobriety restriction policy that prevented any person with HCV who had used any alcohol or illicit drugs within the six months prior to treatment initiation from receiving potentially life-saving medication to cure their HCV. Alabama Medicaid has withdrawn the policy and the agreement requires notification to Medicaid recipients and Medicaid providers of these changes and prompt remediation of any instances where the prior policy is applied.
On January 24, 2024, the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services issued a Dear Colleague Letter to state Medicaid administrators urging them to ensure that their Medicaid programs allow access to life-saving medications for people with Hepatitis C (HCV), regardless of whether or not they also have substance use disorder (SUD), in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
On November 16, 2023, the United States announced its finding that Service Oklahoma, a state agency, violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by maintaining a mobile application that is inaccessible to individuals with vision disabilities.
On January 22, 2024, the United States executed a settlement agreement with Service Oklahoma regarding the accessibility of its mobile apps. Under the agreement, Service Oklahoma will ensure that any mobile app that it creates, administers, or maintains is accessible to individuals with disabilities and conforms to accessibility guidelines Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), Version 2.1, Level AA. Service Oklahoma agreed to take other corrective actions, including soliciting accessibility feedback and requests from the public, retaining an ADA coordinator, providing ADA training to employees, and reporting to the department.
On January 8, 2024, the Justice Department filed a statement of interest explaining that gender dysphoria can be a covered disability under the ADA. The statement of interest was filed in Doe v. Georgia Department of Corrections, a private lawsuit by a transgender woman alleging that she is receiving inadequate medical treatment for her gender dysphoria while incarcerated, in violation of Titles II and III of the ADA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Department's statement clarifies that gender dysphoria can be a covered disability under the ADA and is not subject to the ADA’s exclusion of gender identity disorders.
On January 3, 2024, the United States executed a settlement agreement with the city of Miami Beach to resolve its claims that the city violated Title I of the ADA by asking police applicants to take medical and psychological exams too early in the hiring process. Under the agreement, the city will ensure that its hiring practices comply with the ADA, including the timing of medical examinations, and will train its employees on this requirement. When requested, the city will provide an applicant whose conditional job offer is revoked with the reason why, including any medical or disability-related reasons. The city will also host a training on the ADA and best practices for background investigations for representatives from Florida’s municipal and county law enforcement agencies.
On December 20, 2023, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York reached a resolution under Title III of the ADA with a nail salon in Williamsville, New York, to resolve an allegation that the nail salon discriminated against a customer with a service animal. The customer is a Marine Corps veteran who uses a service animal because of his service-connected post-traumatic tress disorder. The agreements includes a commitment not to discriminate, adoption of a non-discrimination policy, training of staff, and payment of compensatory damages to the customer.
On December 19, 2023, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Rhode Island reached a resolution under Title III of the ADA with Kent Hospital in Warwick, Rhode Island, to address allegations that a deaf individual was not provided effective communication. Under the terms of the agreement, Kent Hospital will adopt new ADA policies and practices that will deal with providing effective communication and securing qualified interpreters for patients; train its staff on these policies; report any future complaints; and cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to ensure ongoing compliance with the terms of the settlement agreement. Additionally, Kent Hospital will pay $30,000 to the complainant and a $5,000 penalty.