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.
The Department of Justice has finally broken its long silence on website accessibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the news is both good and bad.
In its second pro-plaintiff decision in as many months, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has held that blind website accessibility plaintiffs need not show that difficulty using a place of public accommodation’s website also caused a lack of equal access to the physical place of the public accommodation.
Bringing at least temporary relief to hundreds of businesses operating in Arizona, the state’s presiding disciplinary judge entered an order suspending Arizona attorney Peter Strojnik from the practice of law on an indefinite basis.
On June 19, 2018, in Haynes v. Hooters of America, LLC, 2018 WL 3030840 (11th Cir. 2018), the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals eliminated a useful defense strategy in the website accessibility arena when it held that a business’s agreement to remediate its website in a prior, private settlement did not render moot subsequent actions seeking the same relief.
In two rulings arising in Minnesota in March of 2018, federal courts reminded litigants that business owners have various defenses that can effectively shut down so-called “drive by” disability access lawsuits prior to trial.
The House of Representatives passed a bill on February 15, 2018, that requires Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title III plaintiffs to provide businesses with notice and an opportunity to cure any barriers before filing suit. The Senate must also pass a version of the bill before it can be sent to the White House for signing. Senate passage is reported as uncertain.
In a proposed consent decree submitted for preliminary approval to the federal district court in Denver on December 29, 2017, the owners and operators of the Pepsi Center arena in Denver reached an agreement with a proposed class of deaf and hard of hearing plaintiffs to provide open captioning of all aural (spoken or heard) content at games played and concerts held at the arena.
In a move that surprises no one, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced today, December 26, 2017, that it has officially withdrawn its two Advanced Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) related to website accessibility: one under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applicable to state and local governments and one under Title III applicable to private businesses open to the public.
Just as one flood of lawsuits against Arizona businesses finally dries up, another downpour begins. Peter Strojnik of Phoenix, the same attorney who filed more than 1,100 lawsuits that drew the attention of the Arizona attorney general, has filed approximately 60 new lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) against motels and places of lodging in the last three months in federal court in Arizona.
On November 8, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire joined the ranks of the federal courts that have held that a website itself is a place of public accommodation—even if the business that maintains the website does not own or operate any physical place of public accommodation.
A federal district court in Los Angeles last week endorsed the possibility that a business may be able to avoid making a website accessible if it provides the same goods and services through telephonic customer service.
On August 8, 2017, the Nevada attorney general moved to intervene in an action brought by Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) serial litigant Kevin Zimmerman and to consolidate it with the more than 150 other pending Zimmerman actions in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.