The Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC), along with three individuals who use wheelchairs for mobility, today filed federal class action lawsuits against three major hotel owner/operators, RLJ Lodging Trust, Hospitality Properties Trust, and Ashford Hospitality Trust, Inc. Each lawsuit alleges that the hotel owner/operator discriminates against individuals with mobility disabilities in the provision of hotel shuttle transportation. These three entities own or operate more than 500 hotels in the United States, including more than 50 in California.
Specifically, the cases challenge the hotels’ consistent failure to provide accessible options when they choose to offer transportation services to guests, and charge that this failure violates the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and California state law.
“For those of us who use wheelchairs and other mobility devices, it is difficult enough to get around most cities when we travel,” said Ruthee Goldkorn, a plaintiff in two of the cases who uses a wheelchair for mobility. “As it stands at these hotels, all other hotel guests can get shuttled around the city to events, the airport, and downtown attractions, but we just get left at the hotel. I joined this lawsuit to make hotel transportation services accessible for everyone.”
“Hotels that choose to provide transportation services to their guests must include accessible transportation options,” said Timothy P. Fox, Executive Director of the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center and one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs in the three cases. “This has been the law under the ADA for more than twenty years, and these three defendants have not complied with it.”
“Offering a service to nondisabled guests while excluding guests with disabilities from that service is the very definition of disability discrimination,” said Kevin Williams, Legal Program Director of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition and another of the plaintiff lawyers. “The law requires that hotels welcome all their guests.”
Bill Lann Lee, a lawyer for the plaintiffs and a former head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, said, “The law requires equal access, and that is all these lawsuits request. The relief Plaintiffs seek is to have the hotels reform their conduct. They do not seek money damages.”
The cases, CREEC v. RLJ Lodging Trust, CREEC v. Hospitality Properties Trust, and CREEC v. Ashford Hospitality Trust, Inc. were filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Northern California, San Francisco Division. The case numbers are 3:15-cv-00224, 3:15-cv-00221, and 3:15-CV-00216, respectively.
The plaintiffs are represented by CREEC and the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, both of Denver, Colorado; Lewis, Feinberg, Lee, Renaker & Jackson, P.C. of Oakland, California; and Campins Benham-Baker, LLP, of San Francisco, California.
For more information about the case and to read the complaints online, go to creeclaw.org/hotel-transportation.