- Another web accessibility settlement from the U.S. Department of Justice, this time Carnival cruise lines [Minh Vu and Paul H. Kehoe, Seyfarth Shaw, my warnings on legally prescribed web accessibility]
- A topic I’ve often discussed: “Has The ADA Broken Its Economic Promises To People With Disabilities?” [Amelia Thomson-Deveaux, Five Thirty-Eight]
- Nebraska meat-packer tried too hard to hire only legal workers, will now pay dearly for asking for too many documents [Department of Justice press release]
- Owing to discrimination, a Colorado couple had to drive a few extra miles to get a cake, and fly 2000 extra miles to get a marriage license. So guess who’s now in legal trouble for inconveniencing them [Jacob Sullum, New York Post] Sen. Ted Cruz sounds as if he might be skeptical of religious discrimination laws as applied to public accommodation, and down that path might be found libertarian wisdom [Scott Shackford, Reason]
- EEOC says University of Denver Law School must pay its female faculty more [Denver Post, TaxProf]
- “Court Rejects The EEOC’s Novel Attempt To Impose Disparate Treatment Liability Without Any Injury” [Seyfarth Shaw; EEOC v. AutoZone, N.D. Ill.]
- Because more coercion is always the answer: France considers ban on “discrimination” against poor [Frances Ryan, The Guardian]
Today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Listen to Diane Rehm’s roundtable on the law with me and other guests here:
Five years ago I wrote on the occasion of the ADA’s 20th anniversary. I criticized the more recent, United Nations-drafted Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in this 2012 piece. And the potentially massive disruptions to be expected from a legal requirement that websites be “accessible” — a regulatory idea that the Obama administration is thought to be in the very final stages of considering — have been a regular theme here for many years, as has the harm done by ADA filing mills that file accessibility complaints by the batch against businesses and property owners, often with recovery of attorneys’ fees in mind. More: James Bovard, USA Today.
It’s probably not a type of claim that employers should worry about too much, says Jon Hyman…. at least, not yet. “If nothing else, it shows just how broad the ADA has become in potentially covering a wide breadth of physical and mental health issues. “
- Per The Economist, long-awaited Justice Department rules decreeing ADA accessibility for websites (earlier here, here, etc.) expected any day now, “in June. For example, each picture must have text describing it, so that screen-reader programs can tell blind people what is there.” Individual enforcement actions, as against Peapod, aren’t waiting [DoJ press release] Settlement with MOOC firm signals DOJ plans to deal with online education providers [Cooley] Contributor believes it’s a snap to include online captioning in all online Harvard and MIT courses, so what’re they waiting for? [Time]
- Rest of the Economist article is of interest too, especially on ADA filing mills in Florida and elsewhere;
- In Sheehan v. San Francisco, Ninth Circuit created right to ADA accommodation in confrontations with law enforcers, SCOTUS reversed on other (qualified immunity) grounds [Mark Pulliam, City Journal; Richard Re, Prawfs]
- Commemorations of 25th anniversary of the ADA — here’s what I had to say about the 20th — include plans “to hold [various Chicago institutions] publicly accountable for their commitments” to, inter alia, “increase civic engagement around disability issues” [Michael Waterstone, Prawfs]
- Sacramento: “Squeeze Inn owner joins fight against costly ADA lawsuits” [KCRA]
- Spread of fake service dog paraphernalia alarms groups that work with actual service dogs [BBC]
- Intended class-action plaintiff sues McDonald’s over new style Coca-Cola Freestyle dispensers, saying touchscreen format unfair to disabled users [BigClassAction.com]
Last year a new law went into effect in New York requiring businesses to signal ADA accessibility with a new and more progressive-flavored wheelchair icon that suggests forward motion as opposed to plain old static sitting. (It also bans any use of the word “handicapped” on accessible signage, because controlling language is something we want government to do.) New York businesses still have to comply with federal icon display requirements, however, and if they do not want to display two icons at once — which would likely mislead many users into assuming that some distinction in meaning between the two must be intended — they will have to hope to be covered by a catch-all in federal law that allows “alternative” compliant designs provided they offer “substantially equivalent or greater accessibility and usability,” an undefined phrase in this context. [John Egan, Seyfarth Shaw ADA Title III blog]
Lawyers wield an array of coercive powers against third parties, as well as looking after the entrusted interests of often unsophisticated parties and clients. And the goal of accommodating lawyers and aspiring lawyers who suffer from mental illness must be balanced against the “threat” their condition will sometimes pose to clients and the public — at least that’s what the president of the Florida Bar says. With language like that, it’s no surprise his bar appears to be on a collision course with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) enforcement efforts of the U.S. Department of Justice. [ABA Journal]
More: Scott Greenfield wonders who’s looking out for clients’ interests.
An 8-5 decision from (these days) one of the nation’s more liberal circuits in EEOC v. Ford Motor Company:
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to reasonably accommodate their disabled employees; it does not endow all disabled persons with a job—or job schedule—of their choosing. Jane Harris, a Ford Motor Company employee with irritable bowel syndrome, sought a job schedule of her choosing: to work from home on an as-needed basis, up to four days per week. Ford denied her request, deeming regular and predictable on-site attendance essential to Harris’s highly interactive job. Ford’s papers andpractices—and Harris’s three past telecommuting failures—backed up its business judgment.
Nevertheless, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued Ford under the ADA. It alleged that Ford failed to reasonably accommodate Harris by denying her telecommuting request and retaliated against her for bringing the issue to the EEOC’s attention. The district court granted summary judgment to Ford on both claims. We affirm.
A deputy clerk of court in North Carolina allegedly suffered from social anxiety disorder, characterized (per the DSM) as “marked and persistent fear of … social or performance situations in which [a] person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others.” While these fears led her to request to be insulated from customer service responsibilities, they did not inhibit her from secretly tape recording interviews with four supervisors involved with her firing. Reversing a lower court, the Fourth Circuit allowed her ADA accommodation claims to go forward in what Robert Fitzpatrick calls a “remarkable, and potentially far-reaching decision.” Excerpts from Fitzpatrick’s account:
Similarly, in a footnote, the Court indicated that if the plaintiff, took longer than necessary to complete her microfilming work and procrastinated in returning to the front desk, as the defense had alleged, “this may constitute avoidant behavior consistent with a diagnosis of social anxiety disorder.”
The court also reasoned that because the employer, on top of the various reasons it cited in firing her, later cited additional grounds for firing when the case reached a judge, this suspicious “piling on” could be read as evidence of pretext.
- Sheldon Silver’s law firm reportedly loses its special status in courts [New York Post] “Ex-congresswoman could get payout from court tied to Silver” [same; former Rep. Carolyn McCarthy]
- “High School Teacher With Fear of Young Children Loses Disability-Bias Case” [EdWeek, h/t @aaronworthing]
- “Worth remembering that, if they had the power in the 1980s, the public health lobby would have forced us to eat a diet they now say is bad.” [Christopher Snowdon, earlier]
- Numbers confirm that AG Eric Holder’s forfeiture reform won’t directly affect great majority of cases [Institute for Justice via Jacob Sullum, earlier]
- Despite curiously thin evidence that they work, bans on texting while driving roll on, including Mississippi [Steve Wilson, Watchdog, thanks for quote, earlier here, etc.] Draft Ohio bill has numerous troubling features, including broad bar on future technologies, vague distraction ban, stiffer penalties without judicial discretion, mandatory court dates for minor offenses [Maggie Thurber, Ohio Watchdog, thanks for quote]
- Cop’s defense in sex assault of teen: he “[had] money problems and a bad guy scared [him]” [Trumbull, Ct.; Scott Greenfield, Connecticut Post]
- “Dance like no one is watching; email like it may one day be read aloud in a deposition.” [Olivia Nuzzi]
In 2009, a driver with Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc., admitted to the company that he had an alcohol problem. The company told him that it would no longer allow him to drive heavy trucks for the firm. (It said it offered him a less safety-sensitive, but also significantly lower-paying, dock job.) The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) stepped in and sued on his behalf under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It conceded that Old Dominion could (and indeed had to) take the keys away from a heavy truck driver it found to be currently drinking on the job, but contended it had failed in its obligation to “make an individualized determination as to whether the driver could return to driving and provide a reasonable accommodation of leave to its drivers for them to obtain treatment.” Of course backsliding and remission are common following rehab treatment, which means as a group drivers with known past alcohol problems will have a higher risk profile than drivers without. That is why at an earlier stage of the case I asked, “Are we really required to take chances with 18-wheelers on the highway?”
Now we know the answer: Yes. A jury agreed with the EEOC and awarded the driver $119,000 in back pay.
P.S. On the other hand, upholding the decision of a federal district court in Georgia, the Eleventh Circuit has ruled that Crete Carrier Corp. did not violate the ADA when it declined to employ a truck driver with a “current clinical diagnosis of alcoholism,” a bar to driving under DOT regulations.