After Being Humiliated, Disabled Minneapolis Man Sues McDonald’s for Damages
Did you know that under the Americans With Disabilities Act, it’s illegal to ask a disabled person about his or her service dog unless it’s not entirely obvious what service the animal provides? The manager of a McDonald’s in Minneapolis didn’t. Or if he did, he ignored the legality of the bill when he proclaimed, “I am the law” and ordered a local wheelchair-bound man out of the restaurant’s dining area.
The man, 52-year-old Robert Mingo, suffers from muscular dystrophy and a chronic back problem, both of which leave him confined to his wheelchair. He uses a border collie-springer spaniel service dog named Max to help him get around, including to the McDonald’s restaurant where on two occasions he was begrudgingly served and mocked for his disability.
That’s why Mingo recently filed a lawsuit against the franchise and the global corporation in federal court. According to Minneapolis’ Star Tribune newspaper, Mingo seeks unspecified damages as well as the requirement that all McDonald’s employees be trained and educated about the Disabilities Act, first enacted into law in 1990.
The troubling sequence of events plays out like a scene in a PSA directed toward preventing cruel and unfair treatment of disabled Americans. In August 2012, Mingo and Max attempted to order food at the counter of the local McDonald’s before being told that he couldn’t be served because of his dog. After an unsuccessful trip through the drive-thru, Mingo came back inside and obtained his food as well as a warning to never come back to the store.
Here’s where it gets heartbreaking.
Mingo returned to the same establishment in May 2013 with Max in tow and ordered his food at the counter before being told by the manager that he had to leave. When Mingo refused before he received his food, the manager demanded he show proper documentation that allots him the sue of Max as a service dog, and again Mingo refused, citing his wheelchair as proof. The manager then allowed Mingo to get his food but barred him from eating in the dining area, citing the dog’s presence as being against the law.
When Mingo informed him, “The law says I can,” the manager mocked him and declared himself to be the law. According to the suit, this response drew snickers and laughter from other McDonald’s patrons. Now, Mingo is taking his case to court. The franchise’s owner, Tim Baylor, told the Star Tribune that he takes “complaints like this seriously [and] we do our best to provide a great customer experience to every customer.”
“People with disabilities are entitled to every protection under the law, and shouldn’t have to face discrimination in this day and age,” says Aaron Waxman, Senior Partner of Aaron Waxman & Associates.
This might be a case of wait-and-see. In the meantime, it’s worth remembering the 24 years’ worth of progress that’s been made since the passing of the Disabilities Act. Remember it, even though not everyone else will.