McDonald’s Corp. Sued For Discrimination Against Blind Customers Using Guide Dogs

02/29/2012

A blind woman who uses a guide dog, and her fiancée, filed a federal civil rights complaint today in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, including class action allegations that McDonald’s Corp. fails to adequately train employees regarding the rights of people with disabilities using service animals.

The complaint references news stories nationwide of McDonald’s restaurants allegedly excluding people who use guide and service dogs from McDonald’s restaurants, and seeks damages and an injunction requiring McDonald’s Restaurants of California and McDonald’s Corp. to improve written policies and procedures and employee training, as well as unspecified monetary damages.

The complaint alleges that the plaintiff, Cyrena Thomas of Los Angeles, and her fiancée, Larry Givens, attempted to dine at a McDonald’s restaurant on La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles, with Thomas’ guide dog, Suzie Q, and the couple’s infant son. Restaurant employees, including a manager, requested that Thomas remove the dog from the restaurant and allegedly threatened not to serve them unless they did so. Thomas and Givens explained that Thomas is blind and uses a guide dog, but the McDonald’s employees nevertheless insisted the dog remain outside the restaurant.

The complaint indicates that Thomas left the restaurant upset and Givens attempted to educate the McDonald’s employees to no avail. Thomas and Givens ultimately ate at a nearby restaurant with the guide dog without incident.

“This case is unusual because of the high level of ignorance of the employees – what they did patently violates federal and state law, and it indicates a complete lack of training by the owner of the restaurant, which in this case is McDonald’s Corp. itself - it is not a franchised location,” said Christopher Knauf, the plaintiffs’ attorney.

“Due to the number of media reports of similar instances nationwide, it appears that McDonald’s does an inadequate job of training its employees on this issue, which is a very important one for the thousands of people with disabilities nationwide who use service animals in order to live independent lives,” Knauf added.

The complaint, brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the California Blind and Disabled Persons Act, among other statutes, also seeks unspecified monetary, including punitive damages. Under one statute, the plaintiffs can each receive up to three times the damages found by a jury, with a minimum fine of $4,000.

Knauf Associates is a private public interest law firm specializing in disability rights and special education law. Michael Waterstone, Esq., a disability rights expert, is co-counsel on the case.

Read the complaint here:
Thomas v. McDonalds Complaint