A man in a wheelchair with his red-vested service dog twice met firm resistance when he tried to order food and eat inside a McDonald’s in Minneapolis, according to a federal lawsuit alleging violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Robert Mingo, 52, of Minneapolis, who has muscular dystrophy and a chronic back ailment, this week sued the owner of the McDonald’s franchise on W. Broadway near Bryant Avenue N. as well as the global corporation in federal court. He is seeking unspecified damages and requirements that company employees be trained and educated about the Disabilities Act.
While the suit acknowledges that Mingo was eventually served in both instances, he was ordered in the second confrontation not to eat in the dining area by a manager who said, “I am the law,” according to the suit. That comment drew laughter from nearby customers, the suit said.
The location’s owner, Tim Baylor, said in a statement that he takes “complaints like this seriously [and] we do our best to provide a great customer experience to every customer.” Baylor, however, would not address Mingo’s specific allegations.
Mingo cannot walk and has limited use of his arms and hands, the suit reads. His 4-year-old service dog, a border collie-springer spaniel mix named Max, helps with many daily duties, such as opening and closing doors, picking up laundry and removing clothing, the suit added.
“The best thing that could come out of this,” Mingo said Thursday, “is that all McDonald’s employees are required to undergo sensitivity training concerning people with disabilities.”
According to the suit:
Late one morning in August 2012, Mingo wheeled himself into the McDonald’s accompanied by Max, outfitted in his service vest. Mingo was told at the counter that the dog prevented him from being served.
Mingo then rode his wheelchair up to the drive-through and was told by the same employee, “We don’t serve those things in the drive-through.”
Once back inside, Mingo finally was allowed to buy food but was told that he was banned from coming back. He and Max left with the breakfast.
Early one afternoon last May, Mingo returned, again in a wheelchair and with Max. His order was taken “without any issues,” but the manager told him he had to leave. Mingo said he was waiting for his food and that it was illegal to order him out.
The manager then demanded documentation that Max is a service dog, but Mingo said the wheelchair was all the documentation that was needed.
“Fine, get your food and get out of here,” the manager said. “You can’t go in the dining area with the dog.”
To which Mingo responded, “The law says I can.”
“I am the manager here, and I am the law,” came the manager’s reply, which drew laughter from many customers.
Again, Mingo received his food and left.
Under the 24-year-old federal Americans With Disabilities Act, state and local governments, businesses and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany those with disabilities.
Inquiries about a service dog’s validity are limited under the law, allowed only when it’s not obvious what service an animal provides. Asking a disabled person to produce the relevant documents is illegal.
Mingo provides for himself, in part, from federal disability benefits. He also is a writer, having published “Poetry for the Soul” in 2008.
On the book’s amazon.com page, Mingo says, “I’ve always seen poetry as a tool for dealing with life’s struggles and for teaching the world some of the lessons I’ve learned.”
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482