(STL.News) – The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia has reached a settlement agreement with Henderson & Sons Funeral Home (Henderson), a funeral service operator in Rome, Georgia, to resolve an investigation into allegations that it violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to ensure effective communication with individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing.
“Funeral homes have an obligation under the ADA to ensure that people who are deaf and hard of hearing receive the same benefits of their service as those without disabilities,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “Anyone who has lost a loved one understands the value of the services provided by funeral homes, and a failure to provide effective communication to family members who are deaf or hard of hearing robs them of that experience.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office initiated an investigation after receiving a complaint alleging that Henderson failed to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services when necessary to ensure effective communication. The complainant, who is deaf and relies on American Sign Language as her primary means of communication, alleged she requested a sign language interpreter for her family member’s funeral, but no interpreter or other auxiliary aid or service was provided. As a result, the complainant attended her loved one’s funeral without the ability to understand what was being said during the service. And while several friends and family members spoke affectionately about their memories of the deceased, the complainant was forced to grieve without the benefit of sharing in those memories.
Under the settlement agreement, Henderson agreed to ensure effective communication to its customers who are deaf or hard of hearing, including providing qualified interpreters at no cost. Among other things, Henderson has agreed to develop an effective communication policy, provide training to all of its personnel on effective communication and relay calls, and provide a report to the U.S. Attorney’s Office regarding its compliance with the settlement agreement. A copy of the settlement agreement can be found here.
The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities by funeral homes. Under the ADA, funeral homes are required to provide effective communication to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. Depending on the needs of the customer and the sensitivity of the information needed to be conveyed, a qualified sign language interpreter may be required to ensure effective communication with the person who is deaf or hard of hearing.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tiffany Johnson represented the United States in this matter.