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PROVIDENCE – Massage Envy Franchising, LLC, and ME SPE Franchising, LLC (“Massage Envy”) have entered into a settlement agreement with the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Rhode Island, requiring the company to change policies at all of its franchised locations nationwide in order to provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities, announced United States Attorney Zachary A. Cunha. There are approximately 1,100 Massage Envy franchised locations in 49 states, including five in Rhode Island.
The agreement follows an investigation initiated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Rhode Island after receiving allegations that Massage Envy franchisees had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when they discriminated against individuals with disabilities who, because of their disability, needed assistance transferring to and from massage/facial tables.
“For more than thirty years, the Americans with Disabilities Act has made one thing emphatically clear: places of public accommodation have a duty to accommodate everyone, regardless of disability,” said U.S. Attorney Cunha. “When businesses open their doors to the public, they have an obligation to make their services accessible, and when they do not meet that obligation, we will act. I am pleased that, with today’s agreement, Massage Envy has taken comprehensive steps to ensure that customers can access these facilities not only in Rhode Island, but across the nation.”
One such complaint came from an individual who needed assistance transferring to and from a massage table, on account of vision and mobility disabilities. A manager at the Massage Envy franchise location in Providence, Rhode Island, informed her that a corporate policy prohibited employees from providing transfer assistance, and that the individual would need to bring in a third-party to assist her. The investigation revealed that Massage Envy had a policy that required all franchisees to require customers to bring in a friend, family member or other helper if they needed assistance with getting on or off the table.
Under the settlement agreement, Massage Envy will end their policy of prohibiting staff from providing transfer assistance to people with disabilities, and will develop new ADA policies, which will be included on its website and posted at all franchised locations. Massage Envy will also report any future complaints and has agreed to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to ensure ongoing compliance with the terms of the settlement agreement. Massage Envy will also pay a settlement of $10,000 to the individual who was denied transfer assistance at the Providence location.
The matter was litigated by Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy R. Romero with assistance from Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill C. Solomon from the District of Arizona
The Department of Justice has a number of publications available to assist entities in complying with the ADA. For more information on the ADA and to access these publications, visit www.ada.gov or call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD). Any member of the public who wishes to file a complaint alleging that a place of public accommodation or public entity in Rhode Island is not accessible to persons with disabilities may contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office at (401) 709-5000 or by email at USARI.CivilRightsComplaint@.gov.