Cleveland-based Life Care Centers of America, Inc. also agreed to adopt a service animal policy at all of the facilities that it owns or operates nationwide.
Life Care Center of Hickory Woods in Antioch provides inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation with 24-hour skilled nursing care. Its parent company, Life Care Centers of America, operates or manages more than 200 skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers in 28 states, including more than 35 centers in Tennessee.
The settlement arose from a complaint filed by an individual from Smyrna with the Department of Justice about Life Care Center of Hickory Woods. She alleged the facility denied equal access to its physical therapy services for people with disabilities who use service animals. She further alleged Life Care Center of Hickory Woods failed to modify its policies to permit individuals with disabilities to receive physical therapy while accompanied by a service animal.
According to the complainant, she uses a service dog for assistance in the event of a seizure. While undergoing a 10-week course of physical therapy at Life Care Center of Hickory Woods from November 2014 through March 2015, she alleged several employees confronted her about her service dog, insisted she provide its vaccination records and discouraged her from bringing her dog to subsequent appointments.
As a result of the treatment, the complainant alleged she felt compelled to stop bringing her service dog to many of her physical therapy appointments.
Life Care Centers of America agreed to distribute and maintain a new written service animal policy at all of the 200 plus long-term care facilities it operates in the United States. Under the new policy, Life Care agreed to make reasonable modifications in its policies to permit the use of service animals by people with disabilities and to welcome service animals into Life Care facilities.
Life Care Center of Hickory Woods also adopted a new written service animal policy, in which it agreed to make reasonable modifications in its policies to permit the use of service animals. The company further agreed to train its employees on the new service animal policy and about their obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Hickory Woods facility will also post a sign indicating “Service Animals Welcome.” Of the $12,000 he company will pay to resolve the complaint, $7,000 will be paid to the complainant, and $5,000 will be paid to the U.S. as a civil penalty.