ADA in the News: April 17, 2017

New bill introduced to prevent people from abusing the Americans with Disabilities Act

KOAA.com Colorado Springs and Pueblo News

There is a new bill in Congress promising to stop people from abusing the American's with Disabilities Act. 

Attorneys call them "serial ADA suers" because they often file dozens of lawsuits against businesses for minor violations and then demand thousands of dollars to settle. 

Right now, you can sue a business for any type of ADA violation. H.R. 620 won't prevent people from suing, but it will require those people to give the business owner notice to correct the alleged violation before filing a case in court. 

Fifth wave of ADA lawsuits hits Denver metro with new plaintiff, new plaintiff, new attorney

The Denver Channel

Brace yourselves because your favorite store or restaurant could be in someone's cross hairs. Another round of lawsuits is hitting Colorado claiming that businesses are discriminating against people with disabilities.

This time, many of the cases target businesses in the southern half of the Denver metro. Each, filed by a woman named Vicki Mize, claims a business violated technical guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Altogether, five separate plaintiffs have filed roughly 150 ADA cases in Colorado over the last 12 months or so.

The lawsuits are not illegal, but business owners and attorneys have continually questioned the ethics of the people filing the cases.

The last round of ADA litigation, filed by Mellisa Umphenour, targeted more than 60 businesses.

Terminated worker forced to lift boxes during pregnancy advances Title VII and ADA claims

A pregnant employee who was forced to lift boxes without accommodation until the day before she gave birth, and was fired the day she returned from maternity leave, can proceed with her Title VII discrimination and ADA reasonable accommodation claims, a federal district court in Alabama ruled. Denying the employer’s motion to dismiss, the court found the employee’s claims were not time-barred as she timely filed her EEOC charge and included incidents falling within the statutory window, and her Title VII claim sufficiently alleged discriminatory treatment. The court refused to address the employer’s claim that lifting boxes was an essential job function, as that required a factual inquiry inappropriate for a motion to dismiss. ( Taylor v C&B Piping, Inc, NDAla, March 20, 2017, Haikala, M.)

Wisconsin Court Holds Discharging Employee Because of Misconduct Caused by Disability Can Be Discrimination

The National Law Review

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals has affirmed a decision holding that a call center employee with bipolar disorder proved that he was discharged “because of” his disability by establishing he was discharged for misconduct—i.e., avoiding calls—that was caused by his disability. In light of this case, Wisconsin employers dealing with employee misconduct that could be caused by a known disability may want to proceed with caution because, in some cases, the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act may require them to excuse the misconduct as a reasonable accommodation. Wisconsin Bell, Inc. v. Labor and Industry Review Commission, No. 2016AP355 (March 28, 2017).

Therapy trainee's ADA suit against hospital, Ivy Tech proceeds

Indiana Lawyer

A lawsuit against Henry County Memorial Hospital and Ivy Tech Community College will proceed after a judge ruled in favor of a woman who claims her termination from a clinical training session violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Angela Seward was an A student in the Ivy Tech physical therapy assisting program, having completed two of three clinical training sessions, according to the record in her case. Despite earning high marks in her third and final clinical session at Henry Memorial’s rehabilitation services department in New Castle, she was terminated two weeks before it was scheduled to end. She therefore could not complete the program just weeks ahead of scheduled graduation or sit for the state physical therapist assistant licensing exam.
In her suit, Seward claims she was confronted by her clinical instructor, Allison Stroud, and another therapist just days after Seward said she confided to another student that earlier in her life she had struggled with depression and self-esteem issues. Seward was terminated from the program after the confrontation.
Judge William T. Lawrence on Wednesday denied motions to dismiss from the hospital and Ivy Tech.  
 “Seward alleges that her history of depression and self-esteem issues are mental impairments that interfere with the proper functioning of her neurological system and thus constitute a disability within the definition of the ADA and that each of the Defendants is a public entity within the meaning of the ADA. She also alleges that each Defendant receives federal funding,” Lawrence wrote.
“Further, Seward has alleged that she has a disability of which the Defendants were aware and that the Defendants denied her the ability to participate in the clinical rotation and thus complete the PTAP because of that disability. She also alleges that Ivy Tech refused to make a reasonable accommodation that would allow her to complete the PTAP. Thus, Seward has alleged sufficient facts, which must be accepted as true at this juncture, to state a valid ADA claim against the Defendants.”

Henry Community Health declined to comment because the lawsuit is ongoing.
The case is Angela Seward v. Henry County Memorial Hospital, et al., 1:16-cv-1703.

Settlement Talks In 'Hamilton' Disabilities Lawsuit Stall

Forbes

Despite making significant progress, efforts to settle the disability lawsuit filed against Hamilton have hit a bump in the road.

In January 2017, Mark Lasser filed a class-action lawsuit against the Broadway show and its landlord, the Nederlander Organization, for failing to provide full and equal access to all theatergoers. The popular musical did not offer live audio description services, which inform blind guests about what is happening in scenes without dialogue, and scenes with significant visual effects.

The blind plaintiff claimed that the absence of the amenity violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits Broadway theaters and other public places of accommodation from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. Blind and visually impaired theatergoers could not appreciate the show without using the audio description service, resulting in a “live musical experience that is not equal to that afforded to other individuals.”

Lawyer sues 100 ABQ businesses claiming advocacy; patterns raise suspicious motive

KOB 4

Some call it disability advocacy, others call it a shakedown. A Santa Fe attorney has filed a hundred lawsuits against Albuquerque businesses in a period of two months. 

She claims all of these businesses violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and discriminated against one client.  Patterns in the lawsuit seriously question the attorney's true motives.

The ADA is a federal law that covers guidelines on access for those with disabilities. It includes a set of codes detailing how parking lots should be set up, how high disabled signs should be from the ground and how wide parking spaces must be. It even sets guidelines for public bathrooms, including how many inches a soap dispenser can be from the sink and how wide stall doors have to be.  If a business is one inch off, it could be in violation of the law.

Ben & Jerry's Homemade website allegedly not accessible to visually impaired, man claims

Florida Record

A blind Broward County man alleges he is not able to fully access the Ben & Jerry's website.

Dennis Haynes filed a complaint on April 3 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida against Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc. citing the Americans with Disabilities Act.

According to the complaint, the plaintiff is blind and uses screen-reader software to access websites. He alleges the defendant's website has features that are inaccessible because it is not fully readable or compatible with the software. The plaintiff holds Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc. responsible because the defendant allegedly failed to comply with the ADA by not creating and maintaining an accessible website.

The plaintiff seeks judgment against defendant, an order for alteration of website, attorney’s fees, costs, litigation expenses, preventive relief, permanent or temporary injunction, restraining and other orders, as the court deems just. He is represented by Jeannette E. Albo of Thomas B. Bacon PA in Miami and Thomas B. Bacon of Thomas B. Bacon PA in Mount Dora.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida Case number 0:17-cv-60645

NYPD to equip cops with tablets to help them connect with deaf

New York Daily News

The NYPD is launching a pilot program to help police better communicate with deaf people.

Cops in the three precincts — the 9th in Manhattan, the 115th in Queens and the 121st in Staten Island — will be equipped with tablets to allow them to connect via video with a remote sign-language interpreter — if a live interpreter is not available to handle the call in person, the NYPD said.

There are more than 200,000 people who are deaf or hard of hearing across the five boroughs — and in the past NYPD has been slapped with some lawsuits for failing to properly communicate with them.

In 2009, the police department entered into consent decree to resolve Americans with Disabilities Act violations, and agreed to revise its handling of cases involving the deaf.

Uber, Lyft drivers told to get on board with service dogs

Orlando Sentinel

Judy Mathews, blind since birth, had just finished celebrating national White Cane and Guide Dog Safety Day last October when she summoned Uber for a ride — only to have the driver refuse to transport Mathews’ guide dog, Keats.

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