Federal lawsuit alleges Colorado plasma donation centers are discriminating against potential donors

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DENVER (KDVR) – Some Colorado plasma centers are discriminating against people who have disabilities when they try to make a donation, according to a new lawsuit filed in federal court.

The suit, which names CSL Plasma as a defendant, claims the company blatantly discriminates against people with various types of disabilities and “deprives them of much-needed money that otherwise would be available to them, as well as the opportunity to contribute to the country’s plasma supply at a time of national crisis.”

People who make donations receive financial compensation.

The suit claims people like Tom Muniz, who has cerebral palsy, and Christopher Brock, who is a paraplegic who uses a wheelchair, were rejected from donating plasma because of their disabilities.

“To have policies and practices that automatically exclude people with disabilities of all kinds – it’s just infuriating,” said Kevin Williams, the legal program director for the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, and one of the attorneys who filed the suit.

Williams said the company’s actions violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities at places of public accommodation.

Muniz tried to donate plasma a few years ago, but the company rejected him because he was unable to hoist himself onto the donation table by himself. He said he asked about donating again a few weeks ago, but he said the company told him he could not.

“I said, ‘Well, do you have a step-stool that I could use?’ And they said, they would not be able to provide any assistance to me to be able to access the table. I have to be able to access the table on my own,” he said. “I think they’re missing an opportunity for a huge segment of our population to be able to donate.”

Brock said he was rejected from donating because he could not physically stand on the scale at the donation facility.

“Life in a wheelchair has its ups and downs. But it is situations like this, where a facility does not even try to accommodate my disability, that are the most frustrating,” said Brock. “At no time did CSL claim I was not healthy enough to donate plasma. Basically I have been denied from donating plasma, denied from doing some good during this pandemic, simply because I cannot stand on a scale. To me, that seems beyond the pale in 2020.”

CSL Plasma did not respond to multiple requests for a comment from the FOX31 Problems Solvers, but in other similar court cases, the company argued that its donation facilities are not places of public accommodation under the law.

In another similar case, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that “CSL Plasma is not a ‘public accommodation’ under the ADA,” but in a separate case, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals said a different plasma company, Octapharma, was.

Williams said the Third Circuit Court of Appeals also agreed with the 10th Circuit Court in yet another, separate case.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition to hear the arguments about plasma centers on which the appeals courts could not agree.

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