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Published on May 24, 2024
Peoria's CEFCU Settles with DOJ Over Accusations of Discrimination Against Disabled IndividualsSource: Disability symbols 16.png: NPS Graphics, put together by WcommonsPictograms-nps-accessibility-wheelchair-accessible.svg: NPS Graphics, converted by ZyMOSPictograms-nps-accessibility-low vision access.svg: NPS Graphics, converted by ZyMOSPictograms-nps-accessibility-sign language interpretation.svg: NPS Graphics, converted by ZyMOSAutismbrain.jpg: National Institutes of Mental Health, National Institutes of Healthderivative work: Hamiltonham, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Department of Justice (DOJ) cracked the whip on Citizens Equity First Credit Union (CEFCU), based in Peoria, Illinois, forcing them to sign a settlement agreement after allegations of discrimination surfaced against persons with disabilities. In a move to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the credit union is now tasked with adopting a new ADA policy, training its staff, and compensating a complainant who was previously denied service.

Caught in the act for not playing by the rules, an investigation was ignited by a complaint claiming that CEFCU turned away an individual with a hearing disability, seeking service over the phone with the aid of an interpreter, repeatedly. When trying to converse through an interpreter during phone calls, the credit union responded by refusing to continue the conversation, citing a third party's presence as the reason, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of Illinois.

This investigation was spearheaded by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of Illinois, crystallizing in the settlement that demands public accommodations like CEFCU to accommodate all customers equally, including those who require sign language interpreters. "Many people with disabilities communicate through interpreters and the law protects their right to equal access through such services," Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua I. Grant pointed out, as stated by the U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of Illinois. Grant also commended CEFCU for their cooperation in the matter and urged establishments within Illinois to tune up their policies and training in line with ADA requirements.

While not admitting fault under the ADA, the fine print of the agreement has CEFCU paying a monetary sum to the complainant, untangling the dispute once and for all. Representatives from CEFCU were not immediately available for comment on the case. However, the DOJ affirmation that such settlements serve as a reinforcement of the ADA's mandate for equality, underscores a broader commitment to uphold civil rights laws for all individuals, with or without disabilities, especially those who depend on others to be heard, providing them with the proverbial megaphone absent at the scene of denial.