Italicized text was added to the original Title II Technical Assistance Manual through a Supplement issued in 1994.
Regulatory references: 28 CFR 35.170-35.190.
A person or a specific class of individuals or their representative may file a complaint alleging discrimination on the basis of disability.
What must be included in a complaint? First, a complaint must be in writing. Second, it should contain the name and address of the individual or the representative filing the complaint. Third, the complaint should describe the public entity's alleged discriminatory action in sufficient detail to inform the Federal agency of the nature and date of the alleged violation. Fourth, the complaint must be signed by the complainant or by someone authorized to do so on his or her behalf. Finally, complaints filed on behalf of classes or third parties shall describe or identify (by name, if possible) the alleged victims of discrimination.
Is there a time period in which a complaint must be filed? Yes. A complaint must be filed within 180 days of the date of the alleged act(s) of discrimination, unless the time for filing is extended by the Federal agency for good cause. As long as the complaint is filed with any Federal agency, the 180-day requirement will be considered satisfied.
Where should a complaint be filed? A complaint may be filed with either --
Complainants may file with a Federal funding agency that has section 504 jurisdiction, if known. If no Federal funding agency is known, then complainants should file with the appropriate designated agency. In any event, complaints may always be filed with the Department of Justice, which will refer the complaint to the appropriate agency. The Department's regulation designates eight Federal agencies to investigate title II complaints primarily in those cases where there is no Federal agency with section 504 jurisdiction.
How will employment complaints be handled? Individuals who believe that they have been discriminated against in employment by a State or local government in violation of title II may file a complaint --
As is the case with complaints related to nonemployment issues, employment complaints may be filed with the Department of Justice, which will refer the complaint to the appropriate agency.
Which are the designated Federal agencies and what are their areas of responsibility? The eight designated Federal agencies, the functional areas covered by these agencies, and the addresses for filing a complaint are the --
Where should a complaint be filed if more than one designated agency has responsibility for a complaint because it concerns more than one department or agency of a public entity? Complaints involving more than one area should be filed with the Department of Justice. If two or more agencies have apparent responsibility for a complaint, the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights of the Department of Justice shall determine which one of the agencies shall be the designated agency for purposes of that complaint. Complaints involving more than one area of a public entity should be sent to: Coordination and Review Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, P.O. Box 66118, Washington, D.C. 20035-6118.
How will complaints be resolved? The Federal agency processing the complaint will resolve the complaint through informal means or issue a detailed letter containing findings of fact and conclusions of law and, where appropriate, a description of the actions necessary to remedy each violation. Where voluntary compliance cannot be achieved, the complaint may be referred to the Department of Justice for enforcement. In cases where there is Federal funding, fund termination is also an enforcement option.
If a public entity has a grievance procedure, must an individual use that procedure before filing a complaint with a Federal agency or a court? No. Exhaustion of a public entity's grievance procedure is not a prerequisite to filing a complaint with either a Federal agency or a court.
Must the complainant file a complaint with a Federal agency prior to filing an action in court? No. The ADA does not require complainants to exhaust administrative remedies prior to instituting litigation.
Are attorney's fees available? Yes. The prevailing party (other than the United States) in any action or administrative proceeding under the Act may recover attorney's fees in addition to any other relief granted. The "prevailing party" is the party that is successful and may be either the complainant (plaintiff) or the covered entity against which the action is brought (defendant). The defendant, however, may not recover attorney's fees unless the court finds that the plaintiff's action was frivolous, unreasonable, or without foundation, although it does not have to find that the action was brought in subjective bad faith. Attorney's fees include litigation expenses, such as expert witness fees, travel expenses, and costs. The United States is liable for attorney's fees in the same manner as any other party, but is not entitled to them when it is the prevailing party.
Is a State immune from suit under the ADA? No. A State is not immune
from an action in Federal court for violations of the ADA.
Is a private plaintiff entitled to compensatory damages? A private plaintiff under title II is entitled to all of the remedies available under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, including compensatory damages.
ILLUSTRATION: A county court system is found by a Federal court to have violated title II of the ADA by excluding a blind individual from a jury because of his blindness. The individual is entitled to compensatory damages for any injuries suffered, including compensation, when appropriate, for any emotional distress caused by the discrimination.