The Justice Department (DOJ) has reached a comprehensive settlement under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with QuikTrip Corporation, a private company that owns and operates more than 550 gas stations, convenience stores, travel centers, and truck stops in the Midwest, South and Southwestern United States.
Under the consent decree, which was filed along with a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska, QuikTrip will create a $1.5 million compensatory damages fund for individuals who were victims of discrimination based on disability, as well as take various steps to make its stores accessible.
The Justice Department opened the investigation in response to complaints about inaccessible parking by two individuals with disabilities in the Omaha, Neb., area. The DOJ lawsuit says the investigation revealed a nationwide pattern and practice of discrimination on the basis of disability. QuikTrip worked with the department to amicably resolve the matter without active litigation.
"On July 26, 2010, we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the ADA, a landmark civil rights law that ensures equal access and equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "Ensuring full and equal access to all businesses open to the public is a top priority, and the Justice Department is committed to vigorous enforcement of the ADA to ensure equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities."
Under the settlement, which remains subject to court approval, QuikTrip Corporation will:
• Make necessary modifications at its current stores over a three year period to achieve compliance with ADA accessibility requirements. QuikTrip has retained an independent licensed architect approved by DOJ to certify compliance with the ADA architectural standards for each of its current stores;
• Design and construct future stores so they comply with the ADA architectural standards and obtain a certification of ADA compliance for each future store from the independent licensed architect or a construction manager who has been trained by the architect on ADA compliance issues;
• Ensure that at least two fueling positions at each of its current stores and all fueling positions at each store opened after the entry of the consent decree are accessible to individuals with disabilities -- including the fuel dispenser controls, self-service payment mechanism, call button and amenities. At QuikTrip stores opened after approval of the consent decree, two fuel dispensers will be on the shortest accessible route to the store entrance;
• Adopt, implement and train store employees on policies to ensure fueling and other types of indoor and outdoor assistance for people with disabilities, equal access for individuals who use service animals, and maintain accessible features, such as accessible parking and routes;
• Ensure and maintain operation of remote notification systems for outdoor assistance after an initial testing and upgrade of notification systems that may take up to six months;
• Implement and maintain an ADA comment line and complaint resolution process and take appropriate corrective actions to resolve ADA-related complaints received from customers;
• Ensure the accessibility of its website;
• Pay a maximum civil penalty in the amount of $55,000;
• Create a $1.5 million compensatory damages fund to compensate the complainants and other aggrieved individuals who make timely claims to the Justice Department. Claims must be received within 180 days of entry of the consent decree by the court.
The consent decree was reached under Title III of the ADA, which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities by businesses that are open to the public, including gas stations, convenience stores, and other retailers, both large and small.