WASHINGTON Subway parent Doctor's Associates has agreed to loan funds interest-free to franchisees under a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice over alleged infractions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The loans would be used by franchisees within the 20,000-store system to remove service barriers to disabled customers and makes rest rooms accessible "whenever readily achievable." The DOJ said.
Milford, Conn.-based Doctor's Associates cooperated "to fashion a practical and effective agreement," said Wan J. Kim, assistant attorney general for the DOJ's civil-rights division. "We hope that it will serve as a model for other dining establishments."
The DOJ said the franchisor agreed to facilitate "efforts to ensure compliance," although individual franchisees "will be responsible for removing barriers to access." Virtually all 20,000 Subway stores are franchised.
In addition, Doctor's Associates pledged to revise its operations manual to require franchisees to conduct evaluations and remove barriers or risk penalties, the DOJ said.
Doctor's Associates has not commented on the pact or released an estimate of the costs of compliance.