Hattiesburg restaurant agrees to pay damages for treatment of patron with service dog

JACKSON, Miss. (WHLT) — A Hattiesburg restaurant will soon have to pay a woman damages for its alleged treatment towards her and her service dog.

Vickie Killingsworth was in a wheelchair with her service dog in Grand China Buffet on September 11, 2013 when a hostess told her that dogs were not allowed inside.

Killingsworth was asked to leave. She told the staff that she was mobility impaired and that the dog was a service animal.

Officials said eventually the restaurant staff allowed her to be seated with her party, but they were placed in a corner away from others.

As Killingsworth approached the front of the restaurant to leave, a staff person met her at the front door to tell her, `Next time no dog.’  Officials said as she tried to explain the law regarding service animals, he waved his hand toward the door, raised his voice in an angry tone and said, `Go!’ ”

A complaint was filed and the investigation concluded  that the staff violated her civil rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Grand China Buffet Restaurant and its owner, Zhen Fei Chen, reached a settlement agreement.

Killingsworth was paid $2,500.00 in compensatory damages by the restaurant, and a civil penalty of $500.00 was paid to the United States in order to partially vindicate the public interest.

The restaurant’s owners and employees must undergo specific training regarding customers with service animals; signs must be posted on the exterior entrances of the business alerting patrons that persons accompanied by their service animals will be welcomed; and the settlement also prohibits future discrimination at the restaurant.

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