SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT BETWEEN
THE UNITED STATES
THE LEARNING CLINIC
DJ # 202-14-133
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND INVESTIGATION
- This Settlement Agreement (“Agreement”) is made and entered into between the U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of the United States of America (“United States”), and The Learning Clinic, Inc. (“TLC”), a private school located in Brooklyn, CT (“the Parties”).
- TLC is a private, nonprofit corporation, which offers educational and clinical services through residential boarding and day school programs. TLC is a place of public accommodation within the meaning of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12181-12189, and its implementing regulations, 28 C.F.R. Part 36.
- This Agreement resolves an investigation into a complaint filed against TLC alleging a violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12181-12189, and its implementing regulation, 28 C.F.R. Part 36. The Attorney General is authorized to investigate alleged violations of Title III. 42 U.S.C. § 12188(b)(1)(A)(i). Based on the allegations in the Complaint, the United States Department of Justice also initiated an investigation under the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), 42 U.S.C. § 3614(a)-(c).
- The United States initiated this investigation after receiving a complaint from parents (“Complainants”) alleging that TLC discriminated against their child on the basis of disability, by denying the child equal access to TLC’s campus. The child is an individual with a disability (bipolar disorder, pervasive developmental disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Complainants allege that TLC failed to provide reasonable modifications to permit the child to attend school accompanied by his service animal, and to live with his service animal in his room on TLC’s campus. Complainants allege that the service animal would assist the child by identifying when the child develops anxiety and alerting the child, using deep pressure relaxing tasks to calm him down and assist in de-escalating situations, and providing a buffer for the child in stressful social situations by standing in front of him.
- In response to Complainants’ request that the service dog attend school and live with the child at TLC, TLC required Complainants to submit documentation to support the request to use a service animal and the animal’s training as a service animal, sign an indemnification agreement for damages, produce a certificate of liability insurance, and consent to the school’s contact with the minor child’s psychiatrist. Complainants refused to agree to TLC’s terms, and the minor child was unable to bring his service animal onto TLC’s campus. The Complainants subsequently withdrew the child from TLC.
- Under Title III of the ADA, a public accommodation shall make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures, when the modifications are necessary to afford goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations to individuals with disabilities, unless the public accommodation can demonstrate that making the modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations. 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(ii); 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(a). Generally, a public accommodation shall modify policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a service animal by an individual with a disability, unless the public accommodation can demonstrate that making the modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations. When a person with a disability is accompanied by a service animal, a public accommodation shall not ask about the nature or extent of a person’s disability, require documentation of the animal’s certification or training, or require the payment of a surcharge. 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(c).
- The United States has investigated the complaint and has concluded that TLC violated the ADA by failing to reasonably modify its policies, procedures, or practices to allow the use of a service animal by an individual with a disability, and by requiring documentation of the animal’s certification or training, medical verification, and other conditions amounting to a surcharge. See 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(c).
- TLC denies the allegations in the complaint, and does not admit to any of the allegations made by the Complainant or the United States. Nothing herein shall be deemed to be an admission by TLC that it has violated the ADA or FHA. However, in the interest of resolving the United States’ investigation without litigation, the parties have agreed to resolve this matter as set forth without adjudication of any factual or legal disputes.
ENFORCEMENT AND IMPLEMENTATION OF THE AGREEMENT
- In accordance with the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(1)(A)(ii), and 28 C.F.R. § 36.202(b), TLC agrees that persons with disabilities who are accompanied by their service animals at TLC shall be afforded the opportunity to participate in or benefit from the educational programs, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations equal to that afforded to other individuals. In accordance with the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12203, and 28 C.F.R. § 36.206(b), TLC agrees to ensure that persons with disabilities will not be subject to coercion, intimidation, threats, retaliation, or interference in the exercise or enjoyment of, or on account of having exercised or enjoyed, any right granted or protected by the ADA.
- Upon the Effective Date of this Agreement, TLC agrees to modify any existing policies, practices, and procedures at TLC to permit the use of service animals by individuals with disabilities in accordance with the ADA. 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(ii), 28 C.F.R. §36.302(c). When a person with a disability is accompanied by a service animal, TLC shall not ask about the nature or extent of the person’s disability, require documentation of the animal’s certification or training, or require the payment of a surcharge. 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(c). Within 45 days of the Effective date of this Agreement, TLC and the United States shall agree to the provisions of a service animal policy, which shall be adopted by TLC within thirty (30) days of approval by the United States. Upon mutual written agreement between TLC and the United States, these timelines may be extended. In the event TLC does not adopt the approved service animal policy in accordance with this paragraph, such failure to adopt shall constitute a material breach of this Agreement, and the United States reserves the right to re-open its investigation under the ADA and/or FHA.
- Within ninety (90) days of the Effective Date of this Agreement, TLC shall provide administration and faculty, including any employees or contractors who regularly interact directly with students and parents at TLC, with training regarding its obligations under Title III of the ADA and its implementing regulation, 28 C.F.R. Part 36, including but not limited to the obligations to make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and procedures when necessary for ADA compliance, and the TLC Service Animal Policy. The training will be provided at TLC’s expense by an independent third party knowledgeable about the requirements of Title III of the ADA. The trainer shall be approved in advance by the United States.
- Throughout the term of this Agreement, employees and contractors hired by TLC and subject to the training in paragraph 11, will attend an educational training program addressing the content as described above, within their first thirty (30) days of work for TLC. TLC may videotape the initial training to use at subsequent trainings. All training will be provided at TLC’s expense by an independent third party knowledgeable about the requirements of title III of the ADA. The trainer shall be approved in advance by the United States. TLC will maintain a record of the date of each training provided, and the name(s) of attendees. TLC will provide this record to the United States as part of its annual reporting obligation set out below in paragraph 15.
- In exchange for a release and waiver agreement executed by the Complainants, TLC agrees to pay a sum of thirty-five thousand ($35,000.00) to the Complainants to reimburse for attorney’s fees and other costs, as agreed to by TLC and the Complainants.
MONITORING OF THE AGREEMENT
- TLC shall maintain a list of requests it receives for reasonable modifications or accommodations relating to service animals under the ADA or FHA, and shall document any action taken in response to such requests. That record shall be provided to the United States in annual compliance reports as set out below in paragraph 15, or upon request by the United States.
- Annual Report: For the duration of this Agreement, TLC shall send the United States Attorney’s Office, by the last day of each year, a letter containing the following information:
- A brief, general description of the actions taken to comply with this Agreement;
- A description of any requests for a reasonable modification of policies, practices or procedures relating to service animals;
- A brief, general description of the nature of each reasonable modification request relating to service animals;
- A brief, general description of how each reasonable modification request relating to service animals was resolved;
- The record of ADA trainings for employees, including dates and names of attendees, as set out above in paragraphs 11 and 12; and
- The number of written grievances, if any, that have been filed during the relevant reporting period by persons requesting a reasonable modification of policies, practices or procedures.
- The United States may review compliance with this Agreement at any time. If the United States believes that TLC is not in compliance with this Agreement or any requirement contained herein, the United States agrees to notify TLC in writing of the alleged non-compliance. TLC shall have thirty (30) days to respond to the United States regarding the alleged non-compliance, and the Parties will attempt in good faith to resolve the matter informally. If the Parties are unable to reach a resolution, the United States may seek appropriate relief from the United States District Court. If the Court determines that TLC has violated the terms of this Agreement or the ADA, it shall be subject to all available remedies under the ADA.
- Any failure of the United States to enforce this Agreement or any provision herein with respect to any deadline or any other provision herein shall not be construed as a waiver of the United States’ right to enforce other deadlines and provisions of this Agreement. Invalidation of any particular provision or portion of a provision shall not affect the validity of this Agreement, which shall continue to have full force and effect.
- In consideration of the above actions, the United States agrees to close the investigation of this complaint and to refrain from bringing a civil action for violations of the ADA and FHA resulting from the allegations set forth in the complaint, except as provided in paragraph 16 of this Agreement.
- This Agreement constitutes the entire agreement between the Parties on the matters raised herein, including the payment of attorneys’ fees and costs to Complainant’s counsel pursuant to the General Release and Waiver Agreement executed by the Complainants and TLC. There are no other agreements, oral or written, whether in the form of statements, promises or agreements, made by any party or agents of any party, pertaining to the subject matter of this Agreement, and to the extent there may have been, they are deemed void and of no further force or effect unless specifically contained in this Agreement. This Agreement does not affect TLC’s continuing responsibility to comply with all aspects of Title III of the ADA and the FHA.
- The Effective Date of this Agreement is the date of the last signature below. The Agreement shall remain in effect until three (3) years after the Effective Date.
- This Agreement shall be binding on TLC, its successors and assigns. TLC shall obtain the written accession of the successor or assign to any obligations remaining under this Agreement for the remaining term of the Agreement.
- The person(s) signing this Agreement on behalf of TLC and the United States represent that they are authorized to bind the parties to this Agreement.
/s/ Barbara Ducharme
Barbara Ducharme, Treasurer
The Learning Clinic, Inc.
P.O. Box 324
Brooklyn, CT 06234-0324
Tel: (860) 774-5619
March 14, 2013
/s/ Leander A. Dolphin
Leander A. Dolphin
Shipman & Goodwin LLP
One Constitution Plaza
Hartford, CT 06103-1919
Tel: (860) 251-5000
FOR THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
DAVID B. FEIN
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY
/s/ Ndidi N. Moses
Ndidi N. Moses
Assistant United States Attorney
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE
157 Church Street, 25th Floor
New Haven, CT 06510
Tel: (203) 821-3700
Fax: (203) 773-5373