Many people when hearing that celiac disease is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act means they can take food into restaurants, sue restaurants when they don’t provide gluten free foods, or any variety of other things. But based on the Justice Department’s interpretation of the Leslie University decision, there are limitations to what the public accommodations means.
The Department of Justice clarified the Leslie University decision with more information regarding restaurants. The Department of Justice says that restaurants do not have to accommodate gluten free or allergen free menus. The restaurant may have to take some reasonable steps to accommodate allergen free eating as long as it does not cause a “fundamentally alteration” of the meal item.
For example, if the restaurant can substitute or omit an ingredient without fundamentally altering the menu item, they should to comply with the ADA. Leaving a bun off a hamburger is not considered a fundamental alteration, but requesting gluten free fried chicken at Chick-Fil-A would be a fundamental alteration.
In my mind, complying with allergen protocols at all is a fundamental alteration of protocols. Yes, we do it everyday and live with allergen protocols every day, but most people don’t. Think about how hard it is to explain to a friend cooking a meal for you how to keep that meal safe for you. I know restaurants employ professional cooks, but they may not understand either. Think of going to the local, mom and pop, Asian restaurant – they may say their food is gluten free because they don’t know traditional soy sauce contains wheat.
If a restaurant posts they will not accommodate your requests for a gluten free meal, they are using the “fundamental alteration” argument in their desire to not provide allergen safe foods. You are not required to patronize that restaurant and are not in violation of the ADA.
Info from Justice Department – https://archive.ada.gov/q&a_lesley_university.htm