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Deaf Referee Sues under ADA

Referee holding a basketball during timeout

Donald Jacobs is a school custodian in DeKalb County, Georgia where he also referees Tier 3 basketball games for the state’s high school athletics association. Mr. Jacobs is a former basketball player at the Georgia School for the Deaf.

Since Tier 3 games are the lowest level, Mr. Jacobs does not have many opportunities to referee postseason and varsity games, and he receives less pay for refereeing these games than those who referee other tiers.

In order to obtain the higher ratings of Tier 1 and Tier 2, basketball referees must attend the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) referee camps to receive evaluation and training. Unfortunately for Mr. Jacobs, a sign language interpreter was not provided, and he failed the course.

In his lawsuit, Mr. Jacobs alleges that GHSA violated Title II and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because Mr. Jacobs was denied the same opportunities to participate in the training camps and, therefore, received lower evaluations than his peers who can hear.

GHSA says that Mr. Jacobs is not an employee but, rather, an independent contractor who is not entitled to ADA protections.