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Appeals Court Rules Girl Scouts Is Covered By Federal Disability Discrimination Law

February 25, 2017

CHICAGO, May 13, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Friday, May 8, 2015, that the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana is subject to federal disability discrimination law under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  The federal lawsuit was filed on August 2, 2012, by Megan Runnion, who is deaf and was 12 years old at the time. Megan was seeking to secure an American Sign Language interpreter for meetings of her Girl Scout troop.

For the six years that Megan was involved with her Girl Scout troop, the Girl Scouts provided a sign language interpreter for troop meetings and outings. Megan’s mother renewed the request for the interpreter in 2011, but the Girl Scouts denied her request.  Rather than providing the requested interpreter services, Megan’s troop was disbanded.

The lawsuit was dismissed on October 26, 2012, when the Girl Scouts argued that the organization was not covered under the Rehabilitation Act.  But on Friday, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the Northern District of Illinois’ decision and found that private membership organizations that receive federal funds, such as the Girl Scouts, are covered by federal disability discrimination law.

According to Steven P. Blonder, lead counsel in the case and a principal at Chicago-based law firm Much Shelist (which is handling the case on a pro bono basis) the decision confirms that private membership organizations, such as the Girl Scouts, are included in the anti-discrimination provisions of the Rehabilitation Act, regardless of whether professionals or volunteers are playing key roles. It also defines what it means to be principally engaged in social service or educational programs.

“The opinion confirms that private organizations that receive federal funding are prohibited from discriminating against people with disabilities,” said Blonder. “We are pleased that the Seventh Circuit has confirmed this important principle and we can now focus on the underlying discrimination that our client experienced.”

Source: www.thestreet.com

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