ADA in the News February 16, 2021

Jury Verdicts in Favor of Wheelchair-Reliant Employee Upheld on Appeal

In an appeal following jury verdicts in favor of a wheelchair-reliant employee who resigned after his employer repeatedly ignored his requests for an automatic door, the First Circuit rejected all of the arguments made by the defendants on appeal. There was sufficient evidence that he needed an accommodation, that the one he requested was reasonable, and that the employer acted with reckless indifference towards his rights. There was also sufficient evidence supporting his argument that the appellants constituted a single integrated employer. The court also affirmed the district court's denial of the employer's motion for a new trial.


Holdrege Amtrak Station Covered by Settlement Over Alleged ADA Violations

Tribland residents and visitors who have had trouble while boarding or de-boarding Amtrak trains in Holdrege due to lack of handicapped-accessibility at the station there may be eligible for compensation, Amtrak has announced.

According to the government-owned passenger rail company and the U.S. Department of Justice, the Holdrege station is Nebraska’s only Amtrak location covered under the settlement agreement that prompted establishment of the compensation fund.

The settlement agreement, which is between Amtrak and the Department of Justice, covers riders who suffered harm due to alleged violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act that occurred between July 27, 2013, and Dec. 2, 2020.

The $2.25 million compensation fund is to provide for passengers who have a mobility disability and were harmed physically or emotionally because of accessibility issues at Holdrege or any of 63 other Amtrak stations across the United States.

Examples of ADA issues at the various stations include inaccessible parking, steep slopes or steps to get into the stations; lack of directional signs; restrooms with inaccessible entrances, stalls or sinks; high ticket counters; deteriorated platforms; and narrow routes at stations.

According to the Department of Justice, those potentially eligible for compensation may have lived in the communities where the problem stations are located or may have visited or desired to visit a place closer to one or more of those stations than any accessible, alternative Amtrak station.

After Congress passed the ADA and President George H.W. Bush signed it into law in 1990, Amtrak was given 20 years to bring its stations into compliance. An investigation in 2013 by the National Disability Rights Network found many ADA violations still existing and filed a complaint with the Department of Justice, which investigated.

Under terms of the settlement agreement, Amtrak not only will compensate those who suffered harm, but also now will bring the problem stations into compliance.


Justice Department Reaches Agreement with Nevada to End Discriminatory Policies Against Inmates with HIV and Inmates with Disabilities

The Justice Department today reached a settlement agreement with Nevada to ensure that inmates with HIV are not illegally segregated or otherwise discriminated against on the basis of HIV status and that inmates with disabilities are provided an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) programs.

The agreement resolves the department’s findings that NDOC violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by unjustifiably isolating and segregating inmates with HIV, failing to keep their HIV status confidential, and denying them equal employment opportunities, including in food service positions. The department found that NDOC’s HIV housing policy stigmatized inmates with HIV and had the effect of indiscriminately disclosing their confidential HIV status to NDOC employees and inmates. As leading public health and correctional authorities oppose the routine segregation of inmates with HIV as medically unnecessary, the department determined that NDOC’s policy had no legitimate health justification. Nevada has since taken steps to desegregate inmates with HIV and also cooperated with the department throughout the investigation.

The agreement also resolves the department’s findings that NDOC denied inmates with disabilities - including mobility disabilities, HIV, and other physical or mental health conditions - classification and housing at lower-custody levels and facilities. These facilities offer opportunities for inmates to gradually reintegrate back into the community, including various employment positions and reintegration programs, and earn additional credits to reduce the lengths of their sentences. By denying inmates with disabilities opportunities to participate in these programs, the department found that NDOC deprived them of an equal opportunity to engage in productive activities and to accelerate their NDOC release dates. NDOC also confined certain inmates with disabilities for longer periods and in more restrictive settings than they otherwise would have been housed, such as medium or high custody facilities.

Among the terms of the agreement, Nevada will amend its policies, practices, and procedures to ensure that inmates with HIV are not isolated or segregated solely because of their HIV status and will keep information related to inmates’ disabilities confidential. Nevada will also ensure that qualified inmates with disabilities are not excluded from employment opportunities and lower-custody classifications, housing placements, services, and programs. The agreement also requires Nevada to train NDOC staff and inmates on HIV and disability discrimination, designate statewide and facility-specific ADA Coordinators, and implement an ADA grievance procedure.


U. S. Steel Commits to Disability Inclusion by Joining the Valuable 500

Today, U. S. Steel announced that it has joined The Valuable 500, an organization whose member companies and their leaders are “committed to putting disability inclusion on their business leadership agenda. The Valuable 500 was created to “help unlock the social and economic value” of the more than 1.3 billion individuals living with disabilities.

U. S. Steel’s specific commitment to fostering an environment that supports employees with disabilities and their caregivers, enabling them to bring 100% of themselves to work, includes:

  • Advocating for and empowering the individual;
  • Increasing education, awareness and understanding of disability-related issues;
  • Promoting inclusion, trust and respect throughout the organization and in our communities; and
  • Communicating our efforts to promote inclusion and diversity in the workplace.

Founded in 1901, the United States Steel Corporation is a Fortune 250 company and a leading steel producer. U. S. Steel is headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with world-class operations across the United States and in Central Europe.

Launched by social entrepreneur and activist Caroline Casey at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in January 2019, The Valuable 500 aims to put disability on the global business leadership agenda. Our goal is to persuade 500 multinational companies that have at least 1,000 employees to make a public commitment to advance disability inclusion in their organization. By engaging the most influential business leaders and brands, we want to create a tipping point within business that unlocks the business, social, and economic value of the 1.3 billion people living with disabilities around the world, and the millions of us who will become disabled over time. We believe that if business takes a lead, society and government will follow, and truly inclusive businesses can build truly inclusive societies.

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