# 176 III-4.2000 III-3.

4000

October 19, 1995

The Honorable Bob Filner Member, U.S. House of Representatives 333 F Street, Suite A Chula Vista, California 91910 Dear Congressman Filner: This is in response to your inquiry on behalf of your constituents, XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (your case number XXXX). We apologize for our delay in responding. Mr. and Mrs. XXXXXX are complaining about their treatment at the Hometown Buffet Restaurant in Chula Vista and they inquire whether their rights have been violated. Mr. XXXXXX uses a wheelchair and requires assistance for toileting. At the Hometown Buffet, a problem arose when Mr. XXXXXX attempted to use the ladies' room with his wife's assistance. It appears that a female customer objected to Mr. XXXXXXXX presence in the ladies' room and the assistant manager subsequently advised the XXXXXXX to wait outside the restroom until it was unoccupied before entering to use the toilet. The XXXXXXX note, however, that a woman with a child, an "older boy," were apparently allowed to use the ladies' room without incident. The XXXXXXX further allege that they were told to sit at a table in the restaurant nearest the door, and were advised that this policy was in effect "in case a wheelchair person became ill." Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities by places of public accommodation, including restaurants such as the Hometown Buffet. Among other things, the ADA requires public accommodations to make "reasonable modifications" in its policies, practices, and procedures where necessary to afford an individual with a disability an equal opportunity to enjoy the goods and services offered by the public accommodation. Designating restrooms for separate use by men and women is a policy or practice subject to the reasonable modification requirement. It appears from the XXXXXXXX account that the restaurant was willing to modify its general rules and allow

XXXXXXXXXX to use the ladies' room with his wife's assistance so long as the privacy of other patrons was respected. Without knowing more, the restaurant's position appears to be reasonable. More problematic is the restaurant's rule that patrons using wheelchairs sit only near exit doorways. While a public accommodation may impose legitimate safety rules, it cannot make assumptions about the capabilities of individuals with disabilities or provide services in a segregated manner. Under title III, individuals have a private right of action to enforce their rights in federal court. The ADA also authorizes the Department of Justice to investigate complaints against places of public accommodation and to take enforcement action where there is a pattern or practice of discrimination or discrimination involving an issue of general public importance. The Department has undertaken a vigorous enforcement program under the ADA which is described in the attached report. Unfortunately, however, we are not able to investigate every meritorious complaint we receive. We have reviewed the information provided by the XXXXXXX and determined not to investigate this incident. The XXXXXXX may wish to pursue their rights in federal court. We have also enclosed a list of agencies in California that may be able to provide some assistance in this manner. I hope this information will be helpful to you in responding to your constituents. Sincerely,

Deval L. Patrick Assistant Attorney General Civil Rights Division Enclosures