ADA lawsuit challenges McDonald’s drive-thru only hours

The McDonald's 'golden arches' logo, with "Drive-Thru" below
McDonald’s sued for accessibility of drive-thrus

A Louisiana man with visual disabilities sued the world’s largest fast-food chain May 26, arguing that its drive-thru services violate his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“One of the hallmarks of McDonald’s success has been its adaptability. In 2015 alone, McDonald’s changed the length of time it toasts its buns, changed its manner in which it sears hamburger patties, switched from margarine to butter in the preparation of its signature dish, the egg McMuffin, introduced three new sandwiches (buttermilk chicken, artisan grilled chicken, and sirloin burger), as well as an interactive ‘customizable burger’ option,” the class-action lawsuit states. “It also transitioned to ‘cage free eggs, and chicken that is free from antibiotics ‘important to human medicine,’ and, to the awe of McDonald’s aficionados everywhere, opened up the breakfast menu for all day service….

“Curiously absent, however, from McDonald’s continued adaptation, is any concern whatsoever for the accessibility of their late-night drive-thrus to the disabled.”

Many of McDonald’s more than 14,000 stores nationwide only allow customers to purchase products by ordering via their drive-thru windows during late-night hours. Company policy prohibits stores from serving pedestrians who walk up to the drive-thru window.

Scott Magee, who is being represented by attorney William H. Beaumont, is unable to drive because of his visual disabilities. In August 2015, he walked up to the drive-thru window at a Louisiana McDonald’s. Company employees allegedly laughed at him and refused to let him order.

The ADA prohibits places of public accommodation, such as food establishments, from denying people with disabilities an “opportunity to…benefit from the goods, services, privileges, advantages or accommodations,” available to their peers. It also requires them to provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities, provided the accommodation does not represent an undue burden or fundamentally alter the nature of such services.

The lawsuit alleges that McDonalds’ policy violates these provisions by excluding people with visual disabilities, such as Magee, from any ability to purchase products independently, thus forcing them to rely on another person in the vehicle, if available. The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, seeks a nationwide injunction on McDonald’s drive-thru policy.

When asked by Eater for comment, a McDonald’s spokesperson said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

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