On October 26, 1999, a disabled athlete and employee of the Paralympic Games sued the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, claiming the USOC gave better training, benefits, and rewards to non-disabled olympic athletes, in violation of Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12181 et seq.; and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794. As an employee of the USOC, he also sued under Title I of the ADA for employment discrimination, and state law for breach of contract .
Although the Court never specifically ordered consolidation, a June 14, 2006 an order consolidated the Shepherd Case with Hollonbeck v. U.S. Olympic Committee,
also filed in the District of Colorado before Judge Kane. This case appears in the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse Database as DR-CO-0016. The facts are largely analogous - paralympic athlete sued the USOC for discrimination in training, accommodations, funding, and so forth. Many other motions and appeals were consolidated in the two cases after the June 14, 2006 order.
Specifically, Plaintiff claimed the USOC provided benefits to non-disabled olympic athletes, including tuition assistance, health insurance, financial support, access to training facilities, and rewards for medals achieved in the Olympic Games. The USOC provided either inferior benefits to paralympic athletes or no benefits at all. Count II of the complaint alleged violation of
Additionally, the plaintiff's position at the USOC required that he promote awareness of disabled sports and promote them, among other functions. The complaint alleged that the USOC failed to provide him with pay, advancements, bonuses, budgeting, support staff, and promotions that it provided to similarly situated non-disabled employees of the USOC. The plaintiff also alleged retaliatory termination.
The plaintiff sought declaratory, injunctive and monetary relief.
On April 20, 2000, the District Court addressed the USOC's motions for summary judgment and to strike, with varied results. A summary of this order appears on the docket. The parties then engaged in a lengthy discovery battle, in which several third parties sought protective orders. On September 21, 2005, the District Court denied the defendant's motion to dismiss and on June 14, 2006, the District Court ordered the parties to submit proposed orders regarding the viability of Counts I and II of the complaint, the "athlete" claims under the ADA and Rehabilitation Act. Shepherd v. U.S. Olympic Committee,
No. 99-2077, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39295 (D. Colo. Jun. 14, 2006). This order also consolidated similar motions for summary judgment by the defendants in Hollonbeck v. U.S. Olympic Committee,
On November 16, 2006, in a published order, the District Court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss Counts II and III, the "athlete" counts, leaving only the "employment" counts, I and IV. Shepherd v. U.S. Olympic Committee,
464 F. Supp. 2d 1072 (D. Colo. 2006). The Court found many parts of the claims problematic: the training facilities were not really "public accommodations" because they were limited to athletes preselected by the USOC; and the ASA separated the Olympics and Paralympics programs and created separate governing bodies, thus plaintiffs had not been "excluded." On January 10, 2007, final judgment was entered against the plaintiff as to Counts II and III. In this order, the court also granted the plaintiff's motion for partial summary adjudication regarding the employment claims.
On July 2, 2007, the docket indicates that a 2 week jury trial was scheduled for February 18 to 29, 2008. It appears the parties settled the employment-related claims. The case was dismissed with prejudice by stipulation on January 10, 2008. No settlement agreement is publicly available at this time.
The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals consolidated the Shepherd and Hollonbeck cases on Plaintiff's appeal of the District Court's grant of the defendant's motion to dismiss the "athlete" claims. Judge Paul J. Kelly, Jr., writing for himself and Judge Jerome A. Holmes upheld the District Court's dismissal, finding that although the USOC's policy resulted in disparate impact on disabled athletes, this did not state a claim under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act. Judge William J. Holloway, Jr. dissented and would have reversed the District Court. Hollonbeck v. U.S. Olympic Committee,
513 F.3d 1191 (10th Cir. 2008). There has been no further development in this case.Eric Weiler - 07/01/2010