DOJ weighs in on case of deaf man suing blood plasma company over lack of sign language interpreter

DOJ weighs in on case of deaf man suing blood plasma company over lack of sign language interpreter
© Greg Nash

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is weighing in on a lawsuit by a deaf man who is suing a blood plasma company for allegedly not providing him with a sign language interpreter when he was trying to register to donate.

Mark Gomez, a 60-year-old deaf man from Aurora, Ill., sued the blood plasma company CSL Plasma Inc. last year after he was turned away from donating in 2018 because he could not understand the registration forms since there was no sign language interpreter.

The suit, filed by attorneys for Equip for Equality in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, claims that the company breached the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Illinois Human Rights Act by denying Gomez an American Sign Language interpreter to help him understand the registration materials, according to The Chicago Tribune.

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Gomez is arguing that CSL Plasma is a service establishment and therefore required to make public accommodations under the ADA, which the DOJ confirmed in a statement of interest on Wednesday.

“The plain meaning of the term 'service establishment' ... encompasses plasma donation centers because plasma donation centers are 'establishments' that provide a 'service.' Plasma donation centers are therefore public accommodations under Title III of the ADA,” the DOJ wrote in the statement of interest.

In a statement following the filing of the lawsuit, Gomez said his incident was a form of discrimination.

“My friends and family have donated with CSL Plasma, but I can’t just because I’m deaf. That’s discrimination,” Gomez said in a statement, according to the Tribune.

CSL Plasma declined to comment further on the specific case, citing litigation, when reached by The Hill.

The company did, however, say that it does provide ASL interpreters to prospective donors.

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“In our operations, we must balance our desire to allow individuals to donate plasma with the need to comply with FDA donor eligibility requirements, and ensure the safety of donors and the patients who ultimately use our life-saving therapies. To be sure, CSL Plasma provides American Sign Language interpreters to prospective donors that are hearing impaired and unable to read written words,” the company said in a statement.

CSL Plasma also said it “welcomes all such interested members of the community, regardless of disability, to visit any of its plasma collection centers throughout the United States, and we encourage donors or potential donors to contact their local CSL Plasma collection center should they require reasonable accommodation to assist with plasma donation.”

“As we state on the Donor Accessibility webpage on our website: CSL Plasma encourages all individuals who may meet U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) eligibility requirements to donate plasma,” the company added.

Updated 2:31 p.m.