The Court of Appeal of the State of California, Fourth Appellate District, recently handed a potentially significant website accessibility win to the business community under the Unruh Civil Rights Act (Unruh Act) when it upheld a jury verdict in Thurston v. Omni Hotels Mgmt. Corp. (Cal. Ct. App. Sept. 23, 2021), finding that the blind user of a hotel’s website reservation mechanism lacked a “bona fide intent” to make a hotel reservation.
For years, Scott Dinin was one of South Florida’s most prolific filers of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) cases. His run ended two years ago, when, after obtaining default judgments against two gas stations on behalf of his client, Alexander Johnson, Dinin submitted a request for attorneys’ fees whose billing entries caught the attention of Judge Paul Huck of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
On April 7, 2021, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals rendered its long-awaited opinion in Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., reversing a trial court’s decision against Winn-Dixie, holding that websites are not places of public accommodation under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and that Winn-Dixie’s website does not violate 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(iii).
In Burnett v. Ocean Properties, Ltd., et al., the First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a jury verdict for the plaintiff in his failure to accommodate claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Maine Human Rights Act (MHRA). The court’s opinion provides a useful reference for the “single integrated employer” test for liability under the ADA. More significantly, it is an important reminder for employers regarding how seriously to evaluate accommodation requests, how promptly to respond to them, and how informed employees should be throughout the process. The First Circuit’s ruling shows that the consequences of failing to adequately respond to accommodation requests could lead to a finding that the employer acted with reckless indifference and is liable for punitive damages.
Over 1,500 COVID-19–related employment lawsuits were filed in the United States in 2020. Ogletree Deakins’ Interactive COVID-19 Litigation Tracker highlights the industries impacted, locations, and types of claims in these matters.
A Pennsylvania district court delivered good news for retailers struggling to balance enforcement of their face mask policies against the rights of customers who assert that their disabilities (or other factors) excuse them from wearing masks.
Continuing a trend that saw Minnesota courts dismiss at least eight disability access lawsuits under Title III of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 2018 and 2019, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Minnesota as well as several other states, recently affirmed the dismissals of three more Title III cases.
Conducting business in the U.S. Virgin Islands poses unique challenges not often encountered in the states, but also unique opportunities. This 20-part series offers tips for doing business in the U.S. Virgin Islands, covering a broad array of topics affecting employers. Part nine of this series addresses the laws relevant to accommodating disabled or high-risk employees in the workplace.
On July 14, 2020, Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed Senate Bill (SB) 644, increasing the potential penalties imposed on Missourians and visitors who attempt to pass off their pets as bona fide service dogs. While Missouri law previously made it a crime to impersonate an individual with a disability, now the misrepresentation of a dog as a valid and properly trained service animal is also a crime.
It should come as no surprise that the masking debate continues to heat up. In the past week, news outlets and social media platforms have been abuzz about face mask exemption cards.
In a big win for Starbucks and all other restauranteurs, retailers, and places of public accommodation, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held in three related cases (Johnson v. Starbuck Corp., Lindsay v. Starbucks Corp., and Kong v. Starbucks Corp.) that accessible sales and service counters are not required to provide a minimum of 36 inches of usable counter space for disabled patrons, provided that the counter is no more than 36 inches high.
Many businesses are continuing to hire for open positions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers that need to continue their hiring processes may see video conferencing platforms as a valuable tool to complete job interviews while maintaining physical distancing. While affording interview participants a more personable experience than a simple telephone interview, these software services can raise unique challenges and potential legal issues that employers may want to take into consideration.
On May 26, 2020, a woman with an alleged respiratory disability filed suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) against a supermarket chain in Pennsylvania after she was denied entry because she could not wear a face mask. This lawsuit marks a growing trend of disability access lawsuits challenging face mask policies.
In handing down the first decisions of their kind, a federal district court in New York rejected two plaintiffs’ claims that retailers, restaurants, and other places of public accommodation were required to offer Braille gift cards to visually impaired customers. Although the court gave the plaintiffs leave to amend their complaints, the reasoning of the decisions soundly rejected the theories advanced by a group of plaintiffs and their lawyers in 249 nearly identical cases filed in the fall of 2019.
While many traditional places of public accommodation, such as theaters, stadiums, restaurants, amusement parks, and retail stores, have shut down their operations in response to “shelter in place” and “social distancing” orders issued to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many businesses deemed “essential” by government orders or otherwise continuing operations have adopted sound safety rules designed to keep their employees safe.
On January 22, 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed new amendments to the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) regulations. These amendments would further restrict the type and use of service animals on airplanes.
On October 7, 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States dashed the hopes of the business community for relief from website access litigation when it announced that it had denied Domino’s Pizza, LLC’s petition for certiorari. The petition sought review of a recent decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In early 2018, Minnesota federal courts issued two decisions dismissing so-called “drive-by” disability access lawsuits under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). That trend has continued in 2019. In fact, in just the past two months, courts in Minnesota have dismissed, in whole or in part, no fewer than six Title III cases, again reminding business owners that liability is far from automatic in these lawsuits.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its highly-anticipated website accessibility opinion in Robles v. Domino’s Pizza, reaffirming the obligation to make retailers’ websites accessible and rejecting the due process and primary jurisdiction arguments commonly asserted by defendants in website accessibility litigation.