Commission on Human Rights
Human Rights Commission August Rulings include Wal-Mart Conciliation
LOUISVILLE – The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights Board of Commissioners today ruled to accept one conciliation agreement to resolve a discrimination complaint made in Kentucky. Conciliation agreements are the result of commission negotiations between complainants and respondents to resolve allegations of civil rights law violations. The agreements are similar to settlements and do not represent an admission by respondents of any violations of the law.
In the case of Lisa Graas v. the Wal-Mart Superstore in Leitchfield, Ky., Lisa Graas of Clarkson, Ky., alleged that the Wal-Mart store, a public accommodations provider (supplies goods to the public), discriminated against her based on her disability. This would be a violation of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act (KRS 344.120) and the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act.
Graas claimed that in February 2008, Wal-Mart employees stopped her inside the front entrance when she attempted to bring her service animal into the store. Service animals are dogs and other animals individually trained to work or perform tasks for persons with disabilities.
Graas said the employees asked her about the animal and detained her for several minutes before finally letting her proceed into the store. Afterward, she claimed, while she attempted to shop, several other employees along the way continued to question her and comment about the dog’s presence.
Graas said the store denied her the full and equal enjoyment of the facility based on her disability concerning the presence of her service animal. She alleged her presence was unwelcomed and that store employees harassed her because of her disability.
Wal-Mart denied the allegations and any violation of the law. While the commission investigation was still underway, the parties agreed to conciliate the matter.
Wal-Mart agreed to compensate Graas with $3,250 and to undergo training for employees on how to comply with civil rights laws. The Wal-Mart branch agreed to undergo commission monitoring for civil rights law compliance for one year.
This complaint was similar in some aspects to recent federal complaints against the Wal-Mart national chain and investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. The settlement in January of this year resolved an investigation by the department based on several complaints alleging Wal-Mart refused to make reasonable modifications to its rules, policies and practices for customers with disabilities, according to the U.S. Department of Justice website.
“Many of the complaints alleged that persons with disabilities were denied access to Wal-Mart stores or were denied an equal opportunity to shop, free of repeated challenges by Wal-Mart staff, because they were accompanied by service animals,” the Department of Justice website said.
In other business, the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights Board dismissed 37 complaints with findings of no probable cause and accepted seven withdrawals with private settlements and six withdrawals without settlement but with a right to sue.
The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights is the state government agency that enforces the Kentucky Civil Rights Act and federal civil rights laws.