1. This action was initiated by a complaint filed with the United States Department of Justice (the "Department") against the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) because it was claimed to have discriminated against an official who is deaf and communicates in sign language. The complaint was investigated by the Department under the authority granted by section 308(b) of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (the "ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12188.
2. The complaint alleged that ECAC's general policy and practice discriminates on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the privileges and advantages of a place of public accommodation; does not provide individuals with disabilities an opportunity to participate that is equal to that afforded others; fails to make reasonable modifications in policies, practices and procedures; and fails to provide necessary auxiliary aids and services to ensure effective communication. The ECAC denied that any action or inaction violated the law.
3. Specifically, the complaint alleged that ECAC, in its operation of officiating assignments, evaluation, and communication, discriminated against Marsha Wetzel, on the basis of disability (deafness) and the requirement for sign language interpreting services for effective communication between and among coaches, officials, and players--by reducing the number of officiating assignments; by failing to communicate effectively with her about her evaluation; by failing to respond promptly to her concerns about evaluation and communication; and by failing to invite her to participate in one annual referee camp for women's basketball officials while other officials received invitations to the camp. Again, the ECAC denied these allegations.
4. ECAC has cooperated in the government's investigation and has maintained it is committed to full compliance with the ADA. To demonstrate that commitment, and not because it believes that it has an obligation under the law or believes it has violated the ADA, ECAC has agreed to implement polices and procedures, set forth below, that are designed to afford persons with disabilities a benefit equal to that provided to others, and to ensure that appropriate auxiliary aids and services will be provided where necessary to afford effective communication between ECAC and person with disabilities. This settlement agreement (Agreement) shall not be construed as an admission of liability by ECAC, all such liability being specifically denied by the ECAC.
5. The parties to this Agreement are the United States of America and the Eastern College Athletic Conference.
The parties hereby agree as follows:
II. Title III Coverage
6. ECAC provides and supervises officiating services for conferences, member institutions, and officials by promoting levels of communication, education and evaluation. Thus, the U.S. Department of Justice contends that ECAC is a public accommodation as defined in section 301 (7) of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12181, and its implementing regulation, 28 C.F.R. § 36.104. The ECAC disputes this contention.
III. Title III Requirements
7. Title III of the ADA requires public accommodations to provide an equal opportunity to participate in the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of an entity, and to provide auxiliary aids and services that are necessary to ensure equal access to the goods, services, facilities, privileges, or accommodations that it offers, as long as doing so does not result in undue burdens or fundamentally alter the nature of its goods and services, 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(iii) and 28 C.F.R. §§ 36.201, 36.303.
8. Title III of the ADA prohibits an individual or entity from directly or through contractual or other arrangements, utilize standards or criteria or methods of administration that have the effect of discriminating on the basis of disability or that perpetuate the discrimination of others who are subject to common administrative control. 42 U.S.C. § 12182, and 28 C.F.R. § 36.204.
IV. Actions To Be Taken by ECAC
ECAC agrees to do the following:
9. ECAC, its officers, agents and employees, agrees to furnish to officials with disabilities reasonable appropriate auxiliary aids and services to ensure effective communication in educational training sessions and camps conducted and sponsored by the ECAC.
10. ECAC shall have available during its training, workshops or meetings, appropriate auxiliary aids and services to ensure effective communication with persons with disabilities. Appropriate auxiliary aids and services include qualified interpreters (sign language interpreters, oral interpreters, cued speech, etc.), computer-aided transcription services, assistive listening devices, and other similar aids and services. On receipt of a request for auxiliary aids or services from an official, ECAC may provide the requested auxiliary aid or service or other effective means of communication unless to do so would result in undue burdens or require a fundamental alteration in the service provided.
11. ECAC agrees to institute the steps set forth below, within 45 days of the effective date of this Agreement, unless a different time frame is set forth below. This Agreement will be effective as of the date of the last signatory.
12. ECAC agrees to appoint an ADA coordinator. The ADA coordinator shall ensure that all ECAC staff are notified of ECAC's responsibilities under the terms of this Agreement. The ADA coordinator shall be responsible for ensuring that officials' reasonable requests for auxiliary aids and services are properly and promptly satisfied.
13. Within thirty (30) days of this Agreement, ECAC shall establish a procedure which effectuates this Agreement to be followed by ECAC staff in handling requests of referees for auxiliary aids and services associated with meetings:
a. ECAC will, upon a reasonable request, provide the appropriate auxiliary aids contemplated herein at no cost to the requesting party.
14. ECAC shall forward to its member institutions such information as the U.S. Department of Justice shall provide.
15. ECAC shall provide staff instructional materials regarding the procedures that must be followed to ensure that appropriate auxiliary aids and services are provided to persons designated herein with disabilities.
16. ECAC shall notify its member institutions and staff about the ADA coordinator.
17. ECAC agrees to offer Marsha Wetzel at least 14 officiating assignments in the 2003-2004 women's basketball season. The parties agree that performance shall determine the number of assignments offered thereafter.
19.Within fourteen (14) days of this Agreement, ECAC shall notify member institutions and staff of this Agreement.
20. ECAC agrees to enforce the Agreement among its staff in a manner consistent with its enforcement of violations of other policies.
21. Under section 308 (b)(l)(B) of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12188(b)(l)(B), the Attorney General is authorized to bring a civil action under title III in any situation where a pattern or practice of discrimination is believed to exist or where a matter of general public importance is raised. In consideration of this Agreement as set forth above, the Attorney General agrees to refrain from undertaking further investigation or from filing a title III civil suit in this matter.
22. The Department may review compliance with this Agreement at any time. If the Department believes that this Agreement or provision thereof has been violated, it may institute a civil action in an appropriate federal district court, following written notice to ECAC of the possible violation and a period of twenty (20) days in which ECAC has the opportunity to cure the alleged violation. In the event that a civil action is filed to enforce the terms of this Agreement, the Attorney General is authorized to seek the maximum civil penalties allowed by 42 U.S.C. § 12188(b)(2)(C).
23. This Agreement is a public document. A copy of this Agreement or any information contained herein may be made available to any person. ECAC or the Department will provide a copy of this Agreement to any person upon reasonable request.
24. This Agreement will become effective as of the date of the last signature below, and shall remain effective for a term of three (3) years. The Agreement will be binding on ECAC and its successors in interest. The owners and operators of ECAC have a duty to so notify all such successors in interest.
25. The Agreement constitutes the entire agreement between the parties on the matters raised herein, and no other statement, promise, or agreement, either written or oral, made by either party or agents of either party, that is not contained in this written Agreement shall be enforceable. This Agreement is limited to the facts as set forth in paragraphs one through two, and does not purport to remedy any other potential violations of the ADA or any other federal law. The U.S. Department of Justice contends that this Agreement does not affect the ECACs continuing responsibility to comply with all aspects of the ADA.
26. A signatory to this Agreement in a representative capacity for a partnership, corporation, or other such entity represents that he or she is authorized to bind such partnership, corporation, or other entity to this Agreement.
For the Eastern College Athletic Conference: For the United States:
Eastern College Athletic Conference
131 Craigville Beach Road
P. O. Box 3
Centerville, Massachusetts 02632
R. ALEXANDER ACOSTA
Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division
JOHN L. WODATCH, Chief
RENEE M. WOHLENHAUS, Deputy Chief
ROBERT MATHER, Trial Attorney
Disabilty Rights Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue., N.W., NYA Building
Washington , DC 20530
Date: Oct 21, 2003
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March 25, 2004