FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE FRIDAY, MAY 29, 1998

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CHICAGO FUNERAL HOME AGREES TO PROVIDE EQUAL SERVICE

TO FAMILIES OF INDIVIDUALS WITH AIDS

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A Chicago funeral home will no longer charge extra fees to families of individuals who died of AIDS, under an agreement today reached with the Justice Department. The agreement resolves a complaint that the Vasquez Funeral Home violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by charging an extra fee for embalming individuals who died of AIDS. Title III of the ADA prohibits places of public accommodation, including funeral homes, from charging extra fees based on disability, including AIDS. "Families whose loved ones have died of AIDS should not have to face the added burden of discriminatory surcharges," said Bill Lann Lee, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration ("OSHA") requires funeral home staff to use universal precautions when embalming all human remains. If they use such precautions, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that their risk from embalming persons with AIDS is not appreciably higher than the risk from embalming persons who did not knowingly have AIDS. Therefore, funeral homes have no basis for charging more to embalm persons with AIDS. Mr. Lee noted that the Justice Department has informed funeral homes, through its technical assistance materials and prior settlements, that surcharges such as the one in this case violate the ADA. "Funeral homes are on notice that this type of discrimination is unlawful," he said. In addition to returning the extra charge, the Vasquez Funeral Home has agreed to: stop charging extra fees for persons who have died from AIDS-related complications and other infectious diseases;

appoint an employee to be responsible for ensuring compliance with the ADA;

train all employees who handle human remains the universal precautions as defined by the CDC and the requirements of OSHA; and,

pay damages of $3,000 to the family.

This is the second settlement between the Justice Department and a funeral home regarding extra charges for embalming people who died of AIDS-related complications. In January 1996, the Department reached a similar agreement with a funeral home in Portsmouth, Virginia. The Department is currently pursuing several other complaints. For further information, individuals can call the Justice Department's toll-free ADA Information Line. The hotline was established by Attorney General Janet Reno as part of a nationwide campaign to educate the public about the ADA. The number is (800) 514-0301 (voice) or (800) 514-0383 (TDD). The Justice Department also has established an ADA home page on the World Wide Web at: http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/adahom.1.htm ###

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