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05.13.2020

Relman Colfax has filed a disability discrimination lawsuit in a Colorado federal court, alleging that CSL Plasma, Inc., one of the largest plasma donation companies in the world, systemically excludes people with a variety of disabilities from donating plasma at all of its Colorado facilities. The Firm represents the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC), a statewide membership organization that represents people with all disabilities and four individual plaintiffs, who were excluded from donating in a variety of ways that are representative of CSL’s refusal to follow the Americans with Disabilities Act and other civil rights laws.

CSL operates seven plasma donation centers in Colorado, and more than 200 around the country, where  it extracts plasma from customers’ blood and compensates them. Plasma centers have been deemed essential enterprises during the COVID-19 crisis, and for many people, plasma donation is both an opportunity to contribute to the supply of urgently needed plasma and to receive modest compensation for doing so. The complaint alleges that CSL needlessly bars many people with disabilities from this opportunity to both make money and make a difference, by applying overbroad exclusions based on stereotypes about individuals with disabilities and by refusing to make the simplest accommodations for their needs. A copy of the Complaint can be found here.

For example, CSL (1) excluded a man with schizophrenia—which has been controlled by medication for many years—from donating plasma, later justifying its action with the completely unfounded speculation that he might suddenly think aliens were commanding him to rip the needle out of his arm; (2) excluded a wheelchair user because he couldn’t stand on a scale to be weighed; rather than itself obtain a wheelchair-accessible scale, CSL told him he had to get weighed by a doctor; (3) excluded a man with cerebral palsy because he couldn’t get onto CSL’s donation bed unassisted, even though the only help he needed was to be provided a stepstool or other basic assistance; and (4) barred a woman from bringing with her the service dog she uses to control her seizures, telling her the only service animals it allows are seeing-eye dogs. The complaint further alleges that these examples are only representative of CSL’s blatant refusal to follow the basic obligations under Title III of the ADA and Colorado law that every business open to the public must follow.

CSL continues to discriminate on the basis of disability years after the U.S. Court of Appeals with jurisdiction over Colorado held, in a case handled by the Firm, that plasma donation centers are subject to Title III’s requirements.  In fact, CSL told one of the plaintiffs that its lawyers had “found a loophole” in the law. Because CSL’s conduct makes clear it will not conform with the law absent judicial decree, the lawsuit asks for an injunction ordering CSL to update its policies to bring them into compliance with the ADA and Colorado disability rights law.

The Relman Colfax case team is led by Sasha Samberg-Champion and Michael Allen, with paralegal assistance from Allison Verrilli. Kevin Williams and Andrew Montoya of CCDC are our co-counsel, and LaBarre Law Offices is local counsel.

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