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Do not blind serve at the drive-thru Jack in the Box at night, no discrimination, by court rules

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When a blind Bay Area woman was unable to dine at her local Jack in the Box at night because it was only open to drive-thru customers, she sued for discrimination based on his handicap. But a divided federal appeals court found the fast food chain doesn’t treat her any worse than others who don’t drive.

A “refusal to serve food to pedestrians at drive-thru counters has no different or greater impact on blind people than the large population of non-disabled people who do not have access to motor vehicles.” , the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said in a 2-1 decision Wednesday. The court upheld a judge’s dismissal last year from the trial, a proposed class action suit on behalf of blind people denied late-night service at one of Jack in the Box’s 2,200 outlets.

The case tests the scope of disability laws and their application to cost-cutting measures by retail businesses. Similar lawsuits have been filed against other fast food companies, including one against Wendy’s, by the same law firm, which was dismissed in 2019 by a federal judge in Chicago.

Wednesday’s ruling concerned an action brought by Judy Szwanek of El Sobrante, later joined by another blind plaintiff, James Lopez II of Montebello, Los Angeles County. Both said they regularly frequent Jack in the Box restaurants within walking distance of their homes, but found on their nightly visits – Szwanek in 2018, Lopez in 2019 – that the lobby was closed and only customers in motor vehicles were served.

Only “modest accommodation” would be needed to serve blind people, depending on the costume: reopen the lobby, set up a walk-in window or let them order by phone and deliver food to the restaurant’s front door.

Instead, “visually impaired people should expect a companion with a car or paid taxi services to help them,” the lawsuit said. Otherwise, he said, the blind “are denied full and equal access to Jack in the Box restaurants.”

Lawyers for the company have denied discriminating, noting in court records that “there are many reasons a person might not be able to drive, and disability is not the only one. them “. The majority of the court of appeal agreed.

Potential customers without cars who want service at night “face exactly the same burden as people who are blind – they have to arrive at the drive-thru window in a vehicle driven by someone else,” the said. opinion of Judge Andrew Hurwitz and Mr. Miller. Baker, a judge of the United States Court of International Trade temporarily assigned to a vacant position on the Ninth Circuit.

In disagreement, Justice Paul Watford said the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 requires businesses to make “reasonable accommodations” for people with disabilities, even if that requires accommodations not available to other customers.

“The drive-thru-only policy unduly weighs on the blind because, due to their disability, they cannot drive,” Watford said. “Blind people (and others whose disabilities prevent them from driving) are entitled to a reasonable change in drive-thru policy only, as this is what is necessary to enable them to ‘fully enjoy and on a footing equality ”of products offered by Jack in the Box. “

The plaintiffs could ask the full court of appeal for a new hearing before a larger panel. Roberto Costales, one of their lawyers, said the case illustrates how “perceived advances in technology and convenience in our society often fail to take people with disabilities into account.”

“Unless the courts keep a more open mind about applying a 40-year-old law to our increasingly technological world, the promises made in the ADA will not be kept,” Costales said.

Bob Egelko is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @BobEgelko



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