Consent Decree Reached in Service Dog Case
Editor: It's hard to believe that a bunch of attorneys would refuse to
allow a woman to enter their office with her service dog, but that's
apparently just what happened. As my dad always used to tell me, education
costs money, and this particular bit of education cost the attorneys
$50,000! Here's the story from the US Department of Justice.
The Justice Department today announced a federal court has approved a
consent decree resolving an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
discrimination lawsuit against attorney Patric LeHouillier and his law
firm, LeHouillier & Associates, P.C., based in Colorado Springs, Colo. The
consent decree was approved by Judge Marcia S. Krieger in U.S. District
Court for the District of Colorado.
In its November 2009 complaint, the Justice Department alleged that
LeHouillier and his firm violated Title III of the ADA when they
unlawfully barred a woman, her husband and her attorney from entering
LeHouillier's law office for a deposition because the woman was
accompanied by her service animal, an Australian Shepherd dog. The woman,
who is a veterinarian, has a traumatic brain injury and other conditions
that affect mobility and balance, and individually trained her service
animal to provide disability-related assistance.
Under the terms of the consent decree, LeHouillier and his firm will:
* Adopt an ADA-compliant service animal policy and post the policy in a
* Post a "Service Animals Welcome" sign;
* Self-report allegations of discrimination to the department;
* Undergo training and provide training to staff;
* Pay $30,000 to the complainant and $10,000 to her husband as a person
associated with a person with a disability; and
* Pay a $10,000 civil penalty.
"For almost two decades, the ADA has ensured that individuals with
disabilities are guaranteed full and equal access to public
accommodations, both large and small," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant
Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The Justice Department is
unrelenting in eradicating discrimination against people with disabilities
and ensuring that owners and operators of public accommodations recognize
their obligations to provide equal access."
A service animal is any animal 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.
More information about today's lawsuit, the ADA, rights and
responsibilities under the ADA relating to service animals, and
instructions on filing an ADA complaint with the Justice Department is
available on the ADA home page at 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 about the ADA can also
call the Justice Department's toll-free ADA Information Line (800)
514-0301 or (800) 514-0383 (TTY).