East Haddam Grocery Store Agrees to Permit Service Animals in ADA Settlement
John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, today announced that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has reached a settlement agreement with the Grist Mill Market in East Haddam, Connecticut, to resolve allegations that the store was not operating in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”).
The settlement agreement resolves an ADA complaint filed by an individual with disabilities alleging that the Grist Mill Market required her to remove her service animal from the store as a condition of service. As a result of the settlement agreement, the store is in the process of posting signage indicating “Service Animals Welcome,” implementing a “Service Animal Policy,” which includes the types of legally permissible inquiries store employees may make of a customer who enters the store with a service animal, and training employees regarding the policy.
Under federal law, private entities that own or operate places of “public accommodation,” including grocery stores, are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of disability. The ADA authorizes the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate complaints and undertake periodic reviews of compliance of covered entities. The Justice Department is also authorized to commence a civil lawsuit in federal court in any case that involves a pattern or practice of discrimination or that raises issues of general public importance, and to seek injunctive relief, monetary damages, and civil penalties.
During the course of the U.S. Attorney’s investigation, the Grist Mill Market was sold to a new owner. U.S. Attorney Durham noted that the new owner and management of the Grist Mill Market has worked cooperatively with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to promptly address the ADA issues without litigation.
“The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that individuals are able to access and enjoy grocery stores and other places of public accommodation,” said U.S. Attorney Durham. “Our Office is committed to enforcing the ADA, which requires businesses to appropriately serve the diverse populations of patrons who live, work, and visit Connecticut. We appreciate the Grist Mill Market’s commitment to increasing access to its store for individuals with disabilities who require service animal assistance.”
Any member of the public who wishes to file a complaint alleging that any place of public accommodation or public entity in Connecticut is not accessible to persons with disabilities may contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office at 203-821-3700.
Additional information about the ADA can be found at www.ada.gov, or by calling the Justice Department’s toll-free information line at (800) 514-0301 and (800) 514-0383 (TTY). More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt.
This matter was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica H. Soufer of the District of Connecticut in coordination with the Disability Rights Section of the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.