ADA Enforcement Options: Title II
Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in all programs, activities, and services of state and local governments, also called “public entities.”
Where do I file a complaint?
Grievance: State and local government agencies with 50 or more employees are required to have a grievance procedure and at least one employee assigned to handle ADA issues. This employee is often called an “ADA Coordinator” but may have another job title.
Information about the grievance procedure and how to contact the ADA Coordinator must be available to the public. This information may be posted on websites, at public offices or other service locations, or included in program brochures, meeting notices, or other materials.
Complaint with a federal agency: Complaints may be filed with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), with any federal agency that provides funding to the state or local government entity, or with one of eight federal agencies designated according to their expertise in certain types of programs, services, and regulatory activities:
Department of Agriculture (farming, raising livestock, extension services)
Department of Education (elementary and secondary schools, institutions of higher education and vocational education (other than schools of medicine, dentistry, nursing, and other health-related schools), libraries)
Department of Health and Human Services (health care and social services, preschool and daycare, schools of medicine, dentistry, nursing, and other health-related schools)
Department of Housing and Urban Development (state and local public housing, housing assistance and referral)
Department of Interior (lands and natural resources, parks and recreation, water and waste management, environmental protection, energy, historic and cultural preservation, museums)
Department of Justice (law enforcement, public safety, 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)
Department of Labor (labor and the work force); note that job applicants and employees of employers covered under Title I of the ADA file employment complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Department of Transportation: (public transportation, highways, traffic management (non-law enforcement), automobile licensing and inspection, driver licensing)
In many cases, the designated agencies already have jurisdiction under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, because they provide funding to the public entity. For example, if a state park receives federal funding from the Department of the Interior (DOI), the DOI would have authority under Section 504 and would be the designated agency under Title II of the ADA for complaints against that state park.
If an individual with a disability is uncertain about where to file a complaint against any public entity, complaints can always be filed with the Department of Justice, and DOJ will determine if it should be referred to another federal agency.
Similarly, if any federal agency receives a complaint for which it does not have jurisdiction under Section 504 and is not the appropriate designated agency, it may refer the complaint to the appropriate agency.
Deadline for Filing Complaints with Federal Agencies
Complaints must be filed within 180 days of the date of the alleged discrimination.
What Happens after Complaints Are Filed?
The appropriate federal agency will review complaints and may investigate further. If the agency believes a violation of Title II occurred, they will try to negotiate a settlement. If settlement efforts fail, the matter will be referred to the Department of Justice. DOJ will decide whether to file a lawsuit against the public entity.
The Department of Justice has an extensive mediation program, which is offered free of charge in cases (under Title II or Title III) where the Department believes the parties may be able to resolve their differences through discussions facilitated by a trained, neutral mediator.
Title II does not require people with disabilities to file administrative complaints. Private lawsuits can be filed in federal court under Title II, regardless of whether an administrative complaint was filed with a federal agency, or, if a complaint was filed, whether the federal agency found a violation of the law.
Information and Resources