According to the EEOC's investigation, Keysi Severino-Gomez applied online for warehouse positions in Tacoma advertised by Logic Staffing. Work he was well-qualified to perform. Severino-Gomez, who is deaf, utilized Video Relay Service (VRS) to return a call left by a Logic Staffing recruiter regarding his application. Realizing Severino-Gomez is deaf, the recruiter immediately told him he could not do the warehouse job and that his inability to hear would pose a safety risk. Severino-Gomez repeatedly noted he had successfully performed similar work in the past without any safety issues. The recruiter then placed Severino-Gomez on hold to consult with her manager, but returned to state that Logic Staffing did not hire people who are deaf and ended the call.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which prohibits rejecting a qualified applicant because of a disability. The EEOC filed suit (CIV# 18-CV-1594) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The EEOC's lawsuit seeks lost wages, front pay, compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief designed to prevent such discrimination in the future.
There are more than 56 million people with disabilities in the U.S., which equates to one in five Americans identifying as having some form of disability. This means it is highly likely you already employ individuals with disabilities, and there is a highly motivated and talented resource waiting for your call.
Too often, employers are given outdated social service reasons for building a strategy that is inclusive of disability. Yet, there is a persuasive business case for an inclusive and accessible workplace. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employers who have embraced disability as a component of their talent strategy report a:
- 90 percent increase in retention of valued employees
- 72 percent increase in employee productivity
- 45 percent increase in workplace safety
JD Supra (press release)
Many people chuckled when they read the news story about the woman who attempted to bring her “emotional support squirrel” on a Frontier Airlines Flight early in October. However, it is hard not to notice the proliferation of “emotional support animals” — usually dogs or cats, but sometimes turkeys or even spiders. As an employer, what are your obligations when an employee tells you they need to bring an animal to work? Well, as is the case in most employment law questions, it depends.
Becker's Hospital Review
Miami New Times
In South Florida, hundreds of lawsuits have been filed on behalf of Andres Gomez who court documents say is visually impaired. The lawsuits demand eateries, hotels, and municipalities enhance their websites with audiovisual plug-ins that give disabled users the same experiences as those without a handicap.
Florida has become a top spot for lawsuits under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act — a sore spot for lawyers on each side. While plaintiffs say they're "frustrated" at a widespread lack of compliance, defendants feel they're "sitting ducks," unfairly targeted by what some say is "legal extortion."
Burlington Times News
A former teacher has taken the school board to federal court claiming she suffered discrimination and lost her job after less than a year because she asked for time to care for her disabled son.
Theresa Schmitz claims her principal retaliated against her when she asked to leave school 45 minutes early two weeks in a row and complained about him to the district, forcing her out at the end of the year, which her lawsuit calls a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Columbus Business First
In October, the Department of Justice (DOJ) sent a letter to U.S. Congress reaffirming its stance that Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to websites. The DOJ also signaled that, despite its reaffirmation, it does not intend to issue specific regulations explaining what websites need to do in order to actually comply with the ADA at this time.
Title III of the ADA requires “places of public accommodation” (in other words, businesses open to the public) to meet certain architectural guidelines designed to ensure that disabled patrons can access the business. These regulations are very specific, covering everything from the width of store aisles to the height of checkout counters and the spacing of seating to the amount of pressure needed to open a store’s door. Title III empowers private individuals to sue businesses to enforce these standards and recover their attorney’s fees. This enforcement mechanism has led to a proliferation of law firms that routinely file hundreds of disability-access lawsuits with the goal of settling for their fees.
These lawsuits have moved from physical accessibility to the digital realm. Over the last decade, the Obama-era DOJ and courts — notably in Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., for example — have taken the position that Title III’s accessibility requirements apply to websites that are accessible to the public and that bear some nexus to a physical location (e.g., selling goods or services, providing directions to a physical store, listing a restaurant’s menu, etc.). In the absence of regulations interpreting Title III’s accessibility mandates, businesses were directed to a set of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) developed by the World Wide Web Consortium, a nonprofit organization dedicated to website accessibility.
The Obama DOJ had previously proposed to adopt the WCAG as regulation, but the Trump DOJ shelved that proposal. This led to speculation as to whether the DOJ was reconsidering its position on the applicability of Title III to websites.
However, the DOJ’s letter to Congress indicates the agency has not changed its position under the new administration. But the DOJ remains unwilling to adopt formal regulations that would introduce clarity into this hotly-litigated space. To make matters worse, the DOJ’s letter is unlikely to stem the growing tide of website accessibility litigation. To the contrary, website-accessibility litigation will likely increase.
Given this, it is crucial that businesses proactively address the accessibility of their public-facing websites using the WCAG’s new 2.1 Standards.