By Kevin Fritz
When people think of the term “public accommodation,” images of restaurants, storefronts, and hotels come to mind. The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) recent Consent Decree with a moving company provides an important reminder that service providers can also be considered a “place of public accommodation” covered by Title III of the ADA. Title III of the ADA defines “public accommodation as twelve categories of places,” including “service establishments.” In this case, the DOJ considered a moving company such an establishment, even though moving services are not provided at the company’s place of business.
The DOJ began investigating Kemper Moving d/b/a Two Men and a Truck after a woman filed a complaint alleging that Kemper Moving refused to complete her scheduled move upon discovering that she had Hepatitis-C. The Kemper Moving manager advised the on-site movers to deliver the plaintiff’s pre-loaded items to her mother’s home and advised them to return to the office without completing the rest of the scheduled move.
The DOJ found that Kemper Moving had in fact discriminated against the complainant by cancelling the move because of the customer’s Hepatitis-C. To resolve the matter, the moving company agreed to enter into a two-year consent decree filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama under which it will adopt non-discrimination policies and implement a training programs consistent with Title III of the ADA. The moving company must also pay $10,000 in compensation to the complainant and a $3,500 civil penalty to the federal government. The decree also requires the company to hire or designate an ADA compliance official responsible for reviewing all disability-related decisions.
What are the takeaways from this case? First, a decision to deny anyone service because of a disability should be scrutinized carefully. Second, such decisions must be based on real danger, not on unfounded fears or stereotypes. Third, service providers can be covered by Title III of the ADA, even if they provide services at locations that they do not own, lease, or control.