Subway sandwich restaurant improperly denied access to a woman and her service animal

This article is reprinted with the permission of its author, Jon Schultz, of the Colfax Record. The original article is located at the Colfax Record website at: http://www.colfaxrecord.com/article/subway-turns-away-colfax-woman-service-dog

Subway turns away Colfax woman with service dog

Request for documentation not allowed by ADA law

A Colfax woman said she felt discriminated against when a manager of a local Subway restaurant demanded to see documentation for her service dog before taking her order.

Jennifer Lubrant, 42, uses her service dog for both physical and emotional support to help her overcome some of the challenges she faces because of her various health afflictions.

While a business can ask if an animal is a service animal and inquire about what it does to help its master, it is not allowed to request documents about the animal or the individual’s health, said Alan Goldstein, managing attorney for the Sacramento regional office of Disability Rights California.

Lubrant’s dog, a 7-month-old chocolate lab named Bear, is a service animal in training, so Goldstein said state law requires it to be on a leash and wear a tag identifying it as a guide dog.

Lubrant said Bear met those requirements, but the store manager insisted on seeing documentation, even after she tried to explain what the manager could legally ask her. Lubrant said the manager, who she identified as Sylvia, responded by saying all restaurants request paperwork for service animals

“I’m like, ‘You need to check the law,’” Lubrant said. “She’s like, ‘I know it. We’ve always had this policy.’”

Reached by phone, the manager directed comment to Subway’s corporate headquarters, which responded in an email to the Journal.

The statement explained that all Subway restaurants are individually owned and operated by franchisees who are obligated to follow “all applicable laws.”

“We provide our franchisees with materials about the acceptance of service animals, and they provide this information to their employees,” Subway said. “We have asked our franchisee in Colfax to look into this matter and it is our understanding that the franchisee has reached out to the customer to attempt to resolve the issue.”

Lubrant said Monday she has not heard from anyone from the Subway in Colfax since the incident on April 23. After it happened, she called to lodge a complaint with the corporate office.

She said the Subway representative’s response a day later gave her the impression it wasn’t being treated as a “big deal.”

Lubrant said she was told by the representative, whose name she could not recall, that she was not discriminated against, that it was a misunderstanding and the employee was just trying to ensure Bear was a service dog.

“I really don’t feel like it’s my responsibility to educate employees of a business that should know the law already,” Lubrant said. “And (the manager) continued to argue with me about it, and my husband and I were next in line, so we’re standing there and we waited a few moments and we didn’t get any service so I’m like, ‘Well, let’s go.’”

They took their business to Taco Bell, she said.

“There’s only a few places in Colfax to eat out,” Lubrant said. “And to lose one of them that I’m not going to frequent any more is kind of sad, but I can’t really bring myself to go there anymore because I was embarrassed.”

A pair of Subway employees said they had not received training on how to handle service animals.

One of them, Douglas Bella, said he had been working on the line when Lubrant came in with her dog and, when asked about it the following day, he said his manager “asked her nicely the first time.”

“From my point of view, she took the dog out of the car; there was no need for her to have a service animal,” Bella said. “I don’t know what the dog is actually trained to do to help her in whatever situation. …I really saw no reason for her to have the dog in the restaurant.”

Langlee Williams said she has been working at that Subway, located at 350 S Canyon Way, for 4 1/2 years. Williams said she didn’t know whether asking for documentation for service animals was allowed.

“Usually they have vests or something on them,” she said, “but we weren’t really trained whether to say you can’t have a dog in here.”

Lubrant said her service dog relieves several of her health conditions. She said she has chronic pain from fibromyalgia and a hip injury from 25 years ago, and she periodically uses a wheelchair and a cane to get around.

Bear wears a pack that acts as a purse since she can’t bear weight on her upper body, and the dog also provides a momentum boost for when she is walking up an inclined surface, she said.

Lubrant has documentation from her doctor and therapist about her health problems, but she’d rather not disclose it to strangers for the sake of being served, she said.

Goldstein said the law is to protect people from having to do that.

“There’s nothing more personal than someone’s medical information,” he said. “Using a service animal does not open up your medical records to business analysis.

“In my mind this is one of the more basic access issues, so I’m still kind of surprised that businesses don’t know what the law is in this area at this late date.”

Jon Schultz can be reached at jons@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews

3 thoughts on “Subway sandwich restaurant improperly denied access to a woman and her service animal

    • This “service animal” thing is getting totally out of control. What about the rights of someone who is allergic or afraid of animals. Do they have to leave the business because someone can’t leave their animal at home!

  1. ““From my point of view, she took the dog out of the car; there was no need for her to have a service animal,” Bella said. “I don’t know what the dog is actually trained to do to help her in whatever situation. …I really saw no reason for her to have the dog in the restaurant.””
    This is discrimination. I have an invisible disability, epilepsy, and it’s not up to others to understand or approve of my service dog. Their responsibility under the ADA is to allow service animals. Persons with disabilities have ZERO responsibility to prove anything to business owners or workers.