On Tuesday, a federal district court in Florida issued an order in the first known trial involving accessibility to a public accommodation’s website. Ultimately, the court found that grocery giant Winn-Dixie violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) because its website was inaccessible to a visually impaired customer. As we have written about previously here and here, currently there are no binding regulations that specify the accessibility standards for websites under Title III of the ADA.
Americans with Disabilities Act
Decades Later, Questions Linger Over Disability Access Online, But ADA Litigation Continues
When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1990, computers used floppy disks and the “World Wide Web” was still being tested by scientists at CERN. So while the law’s drafters had a good sense of what access would look like in the physical world, they had no idea what sort of economic and social changes were in store with the birth of the Internet.
Fast forward to 2016, and the law is still murky as to disability access issues online. But that uncertainty has not stopped the plaintiffs’ bar from filing lawsuits claiming that websites are inaccessible to users with disabilities and thus violate the ADA.
Many disabled individuals access the Internet using assistive technologies. For example, blind individuals or those with low vision can use screen readers that read website content aloud for them. Websites that are incompatible with assistive technology can create barriers for users with disabilities and give rise to costly and uncertain litigation.
Despite Veteran-Friendly Construction, Liability Under USERRA’s Anti-Discrimination Provisions Still Requires Adverse Employment Action
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (“USERRA”), 38 U.S.C. §§ 4301–4335, prohibits discrimination against employees and potential employees based on their military service and imposes certain obligations on employers with respect to employees returning to work after a period of service in the U.S. military. With a large number of service members currently deployed and increased intervention against ISIS potentially enlarging these numbers, employers’ treatment of employees who are members of the military continues to remain an important issue.
It’s All Relative: A California Court Says Employers Must Accommodate Employees “Associated” With a Person With a Disability
In an issue of first impression, the California Court of Appeals held that employers have a duty under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to provide reasonable accommodations to an applicant or employee who is associated with a disabled person, even if the employee is not disabled. Castro-Ramirez v. Dependable Highway Express, Inc. No. B261165, 2016 Cal. App. LEXIS 255 (Cal. Ct. App. April 4, 2016). This holding confirms that FEHA provides broader protections for employees associated with a disabled person than the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which does not contain the same requirement.
Managers Beware: Individual Liability Confirmed Under USERRA
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (“USERRA”), 38 U.S.C. §§ 4301–4335, prohibits discrimination against employees and potential employees based on their military service and imposes certain obligations on employers with respect to employees returning to their civilian workplace after a period of service in the U.S. military.
The Commission Speaks: Guidance for Employers Regarding the New York City Fair Chance Act
On June 29, 2015, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law the Fair Chance Act (the “Act”), which prohibits employers from inquiring into the criminal backgrounds of certain job applicants in the initial stages of the employment application process. You can read more about the Act here. The New York City Commission on Human Rights (the “Commission”), the agency charged with enforcement of the Act, recently issued “Legal Enforcement Guidance” (the “Guidance”) regarding the Act. As summarized below, the Guidance provides clarity regarding various aspects of the Act, including definitions of key terms, per se violations and exemptions from the Act.
Is Your Wellness Program Healthy? EEOC Provides Much Needed Guidance in Proposed Rule
On April 16, 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a proposed rule addressing how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to wellness programs that are part of group health plans and that include medical examinations or questions about employees’ health. Although not final and still open for public comment, this proposed rule provides important guidelines for employers in administering wellness programs.
Airline Tragedy Prompts Renewed Discussion on Employment Inquiries into Mental Health
As the world reels in the wake of last month’s shocking crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in France, many are questioning what, if anything, the airline should—or could—have done to prevent the tragedy. These questions necessarily touch on important issues about what an employer is permitted to address in pre- and post-employment medical screenings concerning an employee’s mental health.
Splitting the Baby: SCOTUS Ruling in Pregnancy Discrimination Suit Calls For Review of Pregnancy Accommodations
On March 25, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., holding that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) requires courts to consider the extent to which an employer’s policy treats pregnant workers less favorably than it treats non-pregnant workers similar in their ability or inability to perform their job duties.
Global Employers: How Are You Managing Workplace Concerns About Ebola?
While the world moves quickly to contain the Ebola virus, businesses across the globe are scrambling to figure out how best to manage workplace concerns and protect their employees. But as employers develop their Ebola response strategies, they should also be mindful of employee privacy, anti-discrimination, and other employment laws and regulations.