The Scope of the Issue

The Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”) has been the source of a tremendous amount of litigation since President George H.W. Bush signed it into law in 1990.  Over the past few years, Plaintiffs’ counsel have developed a cottage industry of sorts by filing thousands of lawsuits alleging that company websites are not accessible to the blind or visually impaired, in violation of Title III of the ADA, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in “places of public accommodation.”  42 U.S.C. § 12182(a).  While ADA lawsuits previously focused on physical access barriers to businesses, these new lawsuits allege that:  (1) private company websites qualify as places of public accommodation; and, (2) websites with access barriers (e.g., websites without compatible screen-reading software) deny plaintiffs the right of equal access.   Plaintiffs have also challenged the accessibility of mobile applications and online job application interfaces.

Continue Reading The Muddy Waters of ADA Website Compliance May Become Less Murky in 2019

On February 15, 2018, by a vote of 225 to 192, the House of Representatives passed the ADA Education and Reform Act (HR 620).  Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted to ensure access for persons with disabilities to public accommodations.  Too often however, serial litigants have abused Title III to shake down businesses for quick settlements over minor, technical violations without actually seeking to improve access.  By amending the ADA to include a notice and cure provision, proponents of HR 620 say this bill will curb predatory public accommodations lawsuits brought by serial plaintiffs and their lawyers against businesses.

Continue Reading Houses Passes Bill Aimed At Curbing Abuse of ADA Public Accommodations Lawsuits

The Department of Justice’s (“DOJ’s”) often criticized rulemaking delays have resulted in no new website accessibility rules for places of public accommodation to receive notice of and implement. Notwithstanding the obvious due process concerns raised by these delays, more and more website accessibility cases are being threatened and filed every day. Most, not unexpectedly, settle. Winn-Dixie did not, and what happened next is worth a closer look.

Continue Reading Federal Court Rules Inaccessible Website Violates Title III of the ADA

In a previous post, we discussed the Second Circuit’s opinion finding that Rite-Aid lawfully fired a long-tenured pharmacist after he refused to comply with the company’s new mandate that pharmacists administer immunizations.  The plaintiff requested that the Second Circuit rehear the case, arguing that it should consider additional evidence.  Without discussion, the Second Circuit denied the plaintiff’s request, upholding its prior decision.  The pharmacist was not protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act because he could not perform an essential function of the job—administering immunizations—and there were no accommodations that would have permitted him to perform that function.

In an April 24, 2017 decision, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied a motion to dismiss filed by Bravo! Facility Services, Inc. (“Bravo!”) against a former employee who brought claims under the ADA, District of Columbia Human Rights Act, and the FMLA.  Bravo! asserted that the plaintiff should be barred under the doctrine of judicial estoppel from asserting her claims because she initially failed to disclose her employment discrimination claims in her chapter 7 bankruptcy case filed after her employment terminated.  The plaintiff had moved to reopen her bankruptcy case and amended her asset schedules to disclose the claims before filing suit against Bravo!  In denying Bravo!’s motion, the court distinguished these facts from other situations where a plaintiff fails to disclose a claim prior to filing suit or only after challenged by an adversary.

Continue Reading D.C. Court Rejects Judicial Estoppel Defense for Alleged Failure of Plaintiff to Schedule Employment Discrimination Claims in Bankruptcy Case

The Second Circuit recently held that Rite-Aid lawfully fired a long-tenured pharmacist after he refused to comply with the company’s new mandate that pharmacists administer immunizations.  The Court’s decision overturned a jury verdict of $2.6 million in the pharmacist’s favor and reminds employers what it takes to show that a given function is “essential” and what accommodations are reasonable.  The former pharmacist had claimed Rite-Aid illegally discharged and retaliated against him, and refused to accommodate his disability—trypanophobia, or needle phobia—under the Americans with Disabilities Act and similar state law.

Continue Reading Second Circuit Says Firing Disabled Worker Was Lawful

Employers increasingly feel that they are forced to bend, or sometimes even break, company rules to reasonably accommodate disabled workers under federal and state law. In a victory for employers, the Eleventh Circuit bucked this trend, holding that when mandatory overtime is established as an “essential function” of the job, a disabled employee who cannot work overtime is not a “qualified individual” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and, thus, need not be accommodated.

Continue Reading Eleventh Circuit Nixes Disability Discrimination Claim Due to Employee’s Inability to Work Overtime

In February of 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) released detailed information and statistics summarizing the charges of discrimination that the agency received throughout its 2015 fiscal year. The EEOC is the administrative agency charged with implementing and enforcing a number of federal anti-discrimination employment statutes, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Under each of these statutes, employees seeking to bring a claim of unlawful discrimination, harassment, or retaliation must first file a charge with the EEOC. The recently released report provides helpful information regarding the types of charges that employees filed in the 2015 fiscal year, which ran from October 1, 2014 to September 20, 2015.

Continue Reading EEOC 2015 Litigation Statistics – Retaliation Claims Lead Pack