Filing a Discrimination Complaint Under Title II of the ADA

The following information is from the Title II Technical Assistance Manual developed by the U.S. Department of Justice. The manual provides guideance on the regulations under Title II of the ADA.

II-9.2000 Complaints.

A person or a specific class of individuals or their representative may file a complaint alleging discrimination on the basis of disability.

What must be included in a complaint?

  • First, a complaint must be in writing. 
     
  • Second, it should contain the name and address of the individual or the representative filing the complaint. 
     
  • Third, the complaint should describe the public entity's alleged discriminatory action in sufficient detail to inform the Federal agency of the nature and date of the alleged violation. 
     
  • Fourth, the complaint must be signed by the complainant or by someone authorized to do so on his or her behalf. 
     
  • Finally, complaints filed on behalf of classes or third parties shall describe or identify (by name, if possible) the alleged victims of discrimination.

Is there a time period in which a complaint must be filed?

Yes. A complaint must be filed within 180 days of the date of the alleged act(s) of discrimination, unless the time for filing is extended by the Federal agency for good cause. As long as the complaint is filed with any Federal agency, the 180-day requirement will be considered satisfied.

Where should a complaint be filed?

A complaint may be filed with either --

1) Any Federal agency that provides funding to the public entity that is the subject of the complaint;

2) A Federal agency designated in the title II regulation to investigate title II complaints; or

3) The Department of Justice.

Complainants may file with a Federal funding agency that has section 504 jurisdiction, if known. If no Federal funding agency is known, then complainants should file with the appropriate designated agency. In any event, complaints may always be filed with the Department of Justice, which will refer the complaint to the appropriate agency. The Department's regulation designates eight Federal agencies to investigate title II complaints primarily in those cases where there is no Federal agency with section 504 jurisdiction.

How will employment complaints be handled?

Individuals who believe that they have been discriminated against in employment by a State or local government in violation of title II may file a complaint --

1) With a Federal agency that provides financial assistance, if any, to the State or local program in which the alleged discrimination took place; or

2) With the EEOC, if the State or local government is also subject to title I of the ADA (see II-4.0000); or

3) With the Federal agency designated in the title II regulation to investigate complaints in the type of program in which the alleged discrimination took place.

As is the case with complaints related to nonemployment issues, employment complaints may be filed with the Department of Justice, which will refer the complaint to the appropriate agency.

Which are the designated Federal agencies and what are their areas of responsibility?

The eight designated Federal agencies, the functional areas covered by these agencies, and the addresses for filing a complaint are the --

Department of Agriculture: All programs, services, and regulatory activities relating to farming and the raising of livestock, including extension services. Complaints should be sent to: Complaints Adjudication Division, Office of Advocacy and Enterprise, Room 1353 - South Building, Department of Agriculture, 14th & Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250.

Department of Education: All programs, services, and regulatory activities relating to the operation of elementary and secondary education systems and institutions, institutions of higher education and vocational education (other than schools of medicine, dentistry, nursing, and other health-related schools), and libraries. Complaints should be sent to: Office for Civil Rights, Department of Education, 330 C Street, S.W., Suite 5000, Washington, D.C. 20202.

Department of Health and Human Services: All programs, services, and regulatory activities relating to the provision of health care and social services, including schools of medicine, dentistry, nursing, and other health-related schools, the operation of health care and social service providers and institutions, including "grass-roots" and community services organizations and programs, and preschool and day care programs. Complaints should be sent to: Office for Civil Rights, Department of Health & Human Services, 330 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20201.

Department of Housing and Urban Development: All programs, services, and regulatory activities relating to State and local public housing, and housing assistance and referral. Complaints should be sent to: Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, Department of Housing and Urban Development, 451 7th Street, S.W., Room 5100, Washington, D.C. 20410.

Department of the Interior: All programs, services, and regulatory activities relating to lands and natural resources, including parks and recreation, water and waste management, environmental protection, energy, historic and cultural preservation, and museums. Complaints should be sent to: Office for Equal Opportunity, Office of the Secretary, Department of the Interior, 18th & C Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20547.

Department of Justice: All programs, services, and regulatory activities relating to law enforcement, public safety, and the administration of justice, including courts and correctional institutions; commerce and industry, including general economic development, banking and finance, consumer protection, insurance, and small business; planning, development, and regulation (unless assigned to other designated agencies); State and local government support services (e.g., audit, personnel, comptroller, administrative services); all other government functions not assigned to other designated agencies. Complaints should be sent to: Coordination and Review Section, P.O. Box 66118, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, D.C. 20035-6118.

Department of Labor: All programs, services, and regulatory activities relating to labor and the work force. Complaints should be sent to: Directorate of Civil Rights, Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Room N-4123, Washington, D.C. 20210.

Department of Transportation: All programs, services, and regulatory activities relating to transportation, including highways, public transportation, traffic management (non-law enforcement), automobile licensing and inspection, and driver licensing. Complaints should be sent to: Office for Civil Rights, Office of the Secretary, Department of Transportation, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Room 10215, Washington, D.C. 20590.

Where should a complaint be filed if more than one designated agency has responsibility for a complaint because it concerns more than one department or agency of a public entity?

Complaints involving more than one area should be filed with the Department of Justice. If two or more agencies have apparent responsibility for a complaint, the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights of the Department of Justice shall determine which one of the agencies shall be the designated agency for purposes of that complaint. Complaints involving more than one area of a public entity should be sent to: Coordination and Review Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, P.O. Box 66118, Washington, D.C. 20035-6118.

How will complaints be resolved?

The Federal agency processing the complaint will resolve the complaint through informal means or issue a detailed letter containing findings of fact and conclusions of law and, where appropriate, a description of the actions necessary to remedy each violation. Where voluntary compliance cannot be achieved, the complaint may be referred to the Department of Justice for enforcement. In cases where there is Federal funding, fund termination is also an enforcement option.

If a public entity has a grievance procedure, must an individual use that procedure before filing a complaint with a Federal agency or a court?

No. Exhaustion of a public entity's grievance procedure is not a prerequisite to filing a complaint with either a Federal agency or a court.

Must the complainant file a complaint with a Federal agency prior to filing an action in court?

No. The ADA does not require complainants to exhaust administrative remedies prior to instituting litigation.

Are attorney's fees available?

Yes. The prevailing party (other than the United States) in any action or administrative proceeding under the Act may recover attorney's fees in addition to any other relief granted. The "prevailing party" is the party that is successful and may be either the complainant (plaintiff) or the covered entity against which the action is brought (defendant). The defendant, however, may not recover attorney's fees unless the court finds that the plaintiff's action was frivolous, unreasonable, or without foundation, although it does not have to find that the action was brought in subjective bad faith. Attorney's fees include litigation expenses, such as expert witness fees, travel expenses, and costs. The United States is liable for attorney's fees in the same manner as any other party, but is not entitled to them when it is the prevailing party.

Is a State immune from suit under the ADA?

No. A State is not immune from an action in Federal court for violations of the ADA.

Download a Title II Complaint Form