A deaf woman who uses a service dog is suing the Travelodge of La Mesa, alleging discrimination for how she was treated when she tried unsuccessfully to check into the hotel earlier this year.
The Travelodge though did not initially bar her from staying overnight with her guide dog, it demanded that she sign a damage policy form for pets that she and her lawyers say is discriminatory, according to a lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court.
When she protested during the check-in process, the desk clerk informed her that she and herguide dog were no longer welcome to stay at the hotel, the suit says. She asked for a refund but was denied one at the time because the hotel stay was booked on Expedia, the desk clerk told her.
The plaintiff, Naomi Sheneman, of Rochester, New York, is alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Unruh Civil Rights Act and the California Disabled Persons Act.
She is seeking a court order requiring Travelodge to comply with policies prohibiting discrimination against the deaf and to train its staff on a regular basis about the rights of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing under state and federal laws. The suit also seeks compensatory damages.
“There are a lot of hotels out there that don’t follow the law and require additional burdens for people with service animals,” said attorney Andrew Rozynski of Eisenberg & Baum Law Center For The Deaf and Hard of Hearing, which is representing Sheneman. “This suit is to show that you can’t have these additional burdens for people with disabilities because that’s the law. To require her to sign this form and say she can’t stay there and embarrass her is humiliating.”
Travelodge said it was reviewing the complaint with its attorneys. “However, we want to make it clear that Ms. Sheneman, who was a returning guest and totally familiar with the policies and rules of the hotel, was not presented any additional requirements because of her service animal,” the hotel said in a statement. “She was asked for the same deposit as any customer and presented the same information that would be given to any guest with a non-service animal.”
The La Mesa hotel said it did not refuse service to Sheneman, and that it “has never discriminated against persons with service animals. We welcome service animals as advertised on our website, and guests with service animals are staying on a regular basis at the Travelodge of La Mesa.”
While the Travelodge of La Mesa does not permit pets, it notes on its website that “ADA defined service animals are welcome at this hotel.” When Sheneman checked in, she was told that a damage deposit for the room was required, which she provided.
But when she was given a form setting forth additional charges to be applied specifically to damage caused by a guest’s animal, she said she was uncomfortable signing it because it “appeared to impose additional terms or obligations on her because of her service animal,” states the suit.
Sheneman was forced to stay at another hotel and ultimately received a full refund from Travelodge of the $185.53 she had paid.
Source: The San Diego Union Tribune