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U.S. Department Of Justice Files Brief In Support Of Deaf Man Suing Blood Plasma Company Over Lack Of Sign Language Interpreter

Equip for Equality and Much Shelist Seek Judicial Ruling That Plasma Company’s Actions Violate the Americans with Disabilities Act

The United States Department of Justice has filed a brief in a lawsuit in the Northern District of Illinois to clarify that blood plasma donation centers are “public accommodations” under Title III of the ADA.  The lawsuit, Gomez v. CSL Plasma, Inc., filed by Equip for Equality and the law firm Much Shelist on a pro bono basis, alleges that CSL Plasma violated Title III of the ADA by refusing to provide Mark Gomez, who is deaf, with an American Sign Language interpreter, making it impossible for him to donate plasma at Defendant’s plasma donation center.  Mr. Gomez has moved for partial summary judgment on the legal issue the CSL Plasma is a “service establishment” and therefore a “public accommodation” under Title III.

“I just want to donate plasma to help others, while paying my mortgage and household expenses,” said plaintiff Mark Gomez. “My friends and family have donated with CSL Plasma, but I can’t just because I’m deaf. That’s discrimination.”

On July 28, 2018, Mr. Gomez went to the CSL Plasma donation center located at 1500 Douglas Road, in Montgomery, IL in Kane County, west of Chicago. He disclosed his deafness and his inability to lipread, and asked for an ASL interpreter to help him understand the registration materials. Staff said they could not assist him. When he returned again later that week, he was again denied the requested accommodation, and CSL Plasma continues to refuse to provide him with an ASL interpreter.

“We hope this case will not only address the discrimination faced by Mr. Gomez, but also establish positive precedent that CSL Plasma is not above the law and is obligated to accommodate people with disabilities,” said Barry C. Taylor, VP for Civil Rights at Equip for Equality and one of the attorneys on the case. “This could have been easily remedied if CSL Plasma had provided an ASL interpreter instead of denying our client the opportunity to donate blood plasma.”

To make matters worse, instead of providing an ASL interpreter, CSL offered to provide a Spanish speaking staff member to interpret the registration materials, but Mr. Gomez does not speak or understand Spanish.

“CSL Plasma obviously made certain assumptions and offered Spanish translation based solely on Plaintiff’s Hispanic-sounding surname rather than provide an interpreter in the language he truly needed: American Sign Language,” said Steven P. Blonder, a partner at Much Shelist, which is handling the case on a pro bono basis. “At a time when blood and blood plasma donations are critical to help fight COVID-19, CSL Plasma’s actions not only violate the law, but undercut sound public health policy.”

For more information:

Contact Barry C. Taylor – 312-895-7317 or barryt@equipforequality.org

Relevant Court Documents:

Federal Lawsuit

Memorandum in Support of Partial Motion for Summary Judgment

Department of Justice Statement of Interest

Last updated: July 16, 2021

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