It’s bad enough when restaurants or businesses prevent people with service dogs from bringing their dogs in. But when a law firm does it, it’s almost unfathomable â€” especially when the client needs the dog because of injuries that are the reason she’s seeking legal counsel in the first place.
Er, sorry, but shouldn’t the lawyers know better? Here’s the story in a nutshell, according to the suit against the law firm:
In January 2009, Lauren Klejmont arrived with her service dog at the law offices of Larkin, Axelrod, Ingrassia & Tetenbaum in Orange County, NY, to discuss a case stemming from a 2007 car crash. The crash left her with spinal and head injuries that cause seizures, and problems with balancing and memory. Lauren got a service dog to help her deal with these problems. Her German Shepherd, Reicha, warns her before seizures occur, helps her up if she takes a tumble, and picks up objects and carries them when she needs a helping paw.
But ironically, Reicha was not welcome at the meeting, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which has filed a civil rights suit against the firm:
“Ingrassia and another attorney refused to meet her because she was accompanied by her service animal … Ingrassia and the associate asked [her] to leave the animal outside while they had their meeting in Ingrassia’s office. Despite [her] request that the meeting be held elsewhere on the firm’s premises so she could bring her dog inside, Ingrassia and the associate would not relent and Klejmont eventually left.”
A year later a firm associate sent her a letter asking her to come to the office to sign documents, but told her not to bring her dog. As a concession the associate said he could meet with her in the parking lot if she left the dog in her car.
The firm says the associate was not acting on the firm’s protocol.
A statement from the firm says Ingrassia “expressly communicated to Ms. Klejmont the firm’s policy that the firm would accommodate her and her service dog. The subsequent refusal by an employee of the firm to meet with Ms. Klejmont and her dog in our office was in contravention of the firm’s stated policy, was motivated by the employee’s personal dog phobia, and is not properly attributable to the firm.”
The suit seeks a civil damages against the firm, compensatory damages for Klejmont, and assurance that the firm will take action to stop future discrimination, particularly against people with service animals.
What do you think, Dogsters? Are you surprised a law firm or firm associate would so blatantly disregard the ADA, if the suit is accurate? If the associate had a dog phobia, weren’t there other steps that could have been taken?
Photo: From the Flickr photostream of Rigwelter