Articles Posted in ADA Compliance and Defense

Published on:

16 September 2014

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The recent Uber lawsuit

On September 9, 2014, Uber Technologies was sued in Federal Court in San Francisco for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California’s Unruh Act. The suit arose from the claim that UberX drivers refused to allow blind riders to bring their guide dogs. For a copy of the complaint, click here to see Natl Federation of the Blind v. Uber Technologies.

This is just the latest in an long history of complaints or enforcement actions involving the legal requirements concerning “service animals” under the ADA and corresponding state laws such as California’s Unruh Act.

Why public facilities are subject to these service animal rules

Like Uber taxis, all hotels, restaurants, spas, retail facilities, movie theatres, and sports and entertainment venues are places of public accommodation. As such, they are expressly subject to the ADA and corresponding state laws.

Because so many people ask us about the “service animal” issues, we thought it might be helpful to provide our industry friends with some guidelines on the major questions in this area through a series of frequently asked questions or FAQs about this subject.

FAQs about the ADA’s legal requirements for service animals

by

Jim Butler & Marty Orlick
ADA Defense & Compliance Lawyers

 

Here are some of the most Frequently Asked Questions on service animal issues under the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA.

What qualifies as a “service animal?”

Businesses . . . may ask only two questions of individuals regarding their service animals . . .
Under the ADA, a dog or miniature horse that “is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability” qualifies as a service animal. The “work” or “tasks” performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability. For example, the service animal might pull a wheelchair, guide a visually impaired person, or assist an individual with psychiatric disabilities.

Comfort animals and pets are NOT service animals. Comfort animals merely provide emotional support and are not individually trained to assist with a disability.

What can you ask a customer who enters your business with an animal?

Businesses and their representatives who come in contact with the public may ask only two questions of individuals regarding their service animals: CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

06 January 2014
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Hotel Lawyer with observations on the DOJ’s ADA investigation of Starwood Hotels and The Phoenician, and the recent ADA Settlement Agreement.

In January 2009, the Hotel Law Blog reported the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Time Square Manhattan Theater District sweep of nearly 60 hotels. See ADA Defense Lawyers: ADA Sweeps by Department of Justice – Coming to a theater district or hotel near you soon? At that time, Marty Orlick, Chair of JMBM’s ADA Compliance and Defense Group – who represented an institutional investor/owner that owned an off-Broadway boutique hotel caught in the dragnet – opined that the DOJ’s investigations of America’s hotels and restaurants would only accelerate. Since then, the DOJ’s efforts to enforce accessibility at tourist destinations around the country have intensified.

In the article below, Marty brings us up to speed on the DOJ’s enforcement activity in the hospitality sector and highlights the ADA lessons to be learned by the recent agreement between the DOJ and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. and the Phoenician Golf and Resort. Marty also questions how in this investigatory and litigation environment, Starwood or The Phoenician can find themselves targets of a DOJ sweep.

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Published on:

6 November 2013

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ADA Defense lawyer: Pool lift litigation proliferates. Why enterprise-wide compliance is the best solution.

It has been almost a year since the Department of Justice’s ADA requirement for fixed or permanent pool lifts in “places of public accommodation” has been in effect. Now a fact (and cost) of doing business in the hospitality industry, many of our clients and friends in the industry are asking, “what’s the result of all this activity, what’s going on now?” Well, after all the lobbying, education, handwringing, headaches, counseling, and expense, we can say …. things went pretty much as predicted:

  • Many hotel owners complied with the requirements and were prompted to take a comprehensive look at all ADA requirements and bring their properties and procedures into enterprise-wide compliance.
  • Others are getting sued by serial plaintiffs, armed with a new reason to sue hotel owners under the ADA.

Marty Orlick, Chair of JMBM’s ADA Compliance and Defense Group and senior member of its Global Hospitality Group® has been helping hotels, restaurants, retailers, banks and other commercial properties bring their properties and operations into enterprise-wide ADA compliance for years. Here’s his report on what’s going on.

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Published on:

8 April 2013

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ADA defense lawyer: Striking the right balance

The ADA defense and compliance team at JMBM has long advocated compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, commonly known as the ADA. ADA compliance is good business and it is the law. (See articles at www.HotelLawyer.com under HotelLawBlog/ADA Defense & Compliance.)

But we have all seen some terrible abuses of this law in the hands of certain plaintiffs and attorneys who literally file dozens of cases. I have a service that follows the filing of ADA complaints, and recently, one lawyer filed 18 cases in one day against various small businesses for purported ADA violations.

It seems as if both courts and legislatures are getting fed up with abusive practices by some greedy or overzealous advocates. We recently reported on action by the California legislature in “Finally! Relief from abusive ADA litigation in California?“)

Today, we want to recognize a recent federal court decision that reflected outrage at abusive plaintiffs and their lawyers which detract from the spirit and noble purpose of the ADA. We think this kind of insight and approach will help to strike a better balance that we believe was the intent of the ADA.

Today, my partner Marty Orlick provides us with a trenchant summary of the case, including some insightful quotes from the court’s opinion.

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Published on:

30 January 2013

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Hotel Lawyer talking about California’s new law aimed at ADA litigation reform.

ADA litigation claims have skyrocketed. Since January 2005, 16,530 ADA lawsuits — lawsuits alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) — have been filed in federal courts across the country. Even more have been filed in state courts.

In the article below, two senior members of our Global Hospitality Group® talk about a new law passed in California with the goal of reducing abusive ADA litigation. Parts of this law became effective in September 2012, and the rest of it became effective January 1, 2013. Marty Orlick, Chair of JMBM’s ADA Compliance & Defense Group, and David Sudeck, hotel and timeshare lawyer, look at some of the key provisions of this new law and provide their observations about their impact.

Marty and David frequently work together to advise hotel and timeshare owners and operators in connection with Federal and State accessibility law compliance. In this article, they bring California business owners some insight into the likely effectiveness a well-intentioned new law intended to curb abusive ADA litigation.

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Published on:

20 January 2013

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Hotel Lawyer with some practical advice on what do when the Department of Justice knocks on your door with an ADA “survey”

Actually, the DOJ normally mails you the ADA survey form. But it does come down to the same thing.

By the time you get a DOJ survey, a lot of your flexibility is gone, but it is not too late to protect yourself if you seek experienced counsel immediately.

We are already seeing an increase in public and private enforcement of the ADA. While many are being distracted by pool lifts and other new ADA requirements, private advocacy groups and the DOJ keep banging away on the basics.

Examples? One day this past week, a single ADA plaintiff’s lawyer filed 19 lawsuits in the Los Angeles federal court (Central District of California). And, here is the latest on what is going on with the DOJ enforcement action in New York City with the top-rated Zagat restaurants.

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Published on:

14 January 2013

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Hotel ADA Defense & Compliance Lawyer with some tips on what you should do now.

January 31, 2013 is fast approaching and once again our phones are ringing off the hook and the emails are streaming in. Our hospitality clients want to know the latest action being taken by the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) on the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements for pool lifts at pools and spas at hotels, resorts, country clubs, golf and tennis facilities and other places of “public accommodation.”

So here is where things stand.

The pool lift controversy continues to make a splash,
but is it a diversion from enterprise-wide ADA compliance?

The latest update is that the DOJ has not yet further delayed the January 31, 2013 implementation date.

The DOJ stunned both the hospitality industry and pool manufacturers when it proclaimed that only “fixed” or permanent pool lifts would comply with the new 2010 ADAAG Standards (effective March 21, 2012) to the extent “readily achievable.” Portable pool lifts installed on an as needed basis are prohibited unless it is not readily achievable, in which event a portable lift may be used if it is properly anchored.

Due to the efforts of industry groups like American Hotel & Lodging Association and pool and spa organizations, the DOJ postponed the pool lift effective date from March 21, 2012 to January 31, 2013.

The DOJ’s published position is that pool lifts need to be available at each pool and spa (although only one lift is required at a “cluster” of spas) during all pool and spa operating hours. The DOJ has mandated that only “fixed” pool lifts may be installed at each location unless the business can establish that such installation is not “readily achievable.” In such event, a portable pool lift may be permitted if it is properly secured and in place during operating hours.

All indications are that the DOJ remains intransigent that the pool lift requirement will be enforced on January 31, 2013 and pool lifts must be “fixed” to the extent readily achievable. A determination of what is “readily achievable” requires a legal opinion based on the facts of each case.

The ADA pool lift requirement — Situation summary

In September 2012, the DOJ announced it would extend the fixed pool lift requirement to January 31, 2013. Since then, the pool lift controversy has drawn little public attention, until now. Industry groups continue to work with legislators and DOJ officials to provide a greater degree of certainty and “real world” practicality to the pool lift controversy. Those close to the source believe that the DOJ will affirm the implementation date and its position that fixed pool lifts are required where readily achievable. The pool lift train left the station and those in the know believe the DOJ and disabled advocacy groups will enforce the “fixed” pool lift requirement January 31, 2013. We know of several lawsuits filed over the lack of pool lifts after March 21, 2012. We also know of a number of plaintiff’s lawyers who have been waiting for February 1, 2013 to make their splash into pool lift accessibility litigation.

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Published on:

29 May 2012

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Hotel lawyer with latest insights from ADA experts on “ADA Compliance & Claims Prevention.”

At a recent gathering in Los Angeles, a group of ADA experts convened to discuss the hottest issues facing our industry. The panel was moderated by my colleague David Sudeck, who was kind enough to write an article for our readers summarizing some of the matters discussed. The PowerPoint presentation prepared by the panelists is also available by clicking here

There have been more than 15,000 ADA lawsuits filed in the United States. Failure to comply is expensive and bad for business. It is important to be ADA-friendly.

In addition, David Sudeck and Marty Orlick, have written articles and been featured on several webinars, on the topic of Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as specifically on the new 2010 Regulations which came into effect in part on March 15, 2011 and in part on March 15, 2012 (other than the pool lift regulations, the implementation of which have been delayed, as discussed below). Please feel free to contact either one of them – dsudeck@jmbm.com (David Sudeck) or morlick@jmbm.com (Marty Orlick) for additional reference materials or if you would like to discuss your ADA compliance and defense questions.

Here is the summary of the panel discussion . . .

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Published on:

18 May 2012

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DOJ extends pool lift deadline

Today, the Department of Justice announced that it is extending the ADA pool lift deadline from May 21, 2012 to January 31, 2013.

Amendment to ADA regulations

This morning, the DOJ formally published an “Amendment of the Americans with Disabilities Act Title II and III Regulations to Extend Compliance Date for Certain Requirements Related to Existing Pools and Spas Provided by State and Local Governments and by Public Accommodations” (ADAAG Sections 242 and 1009 Standards for Accessible Design).

The new pool lift Compliance Date is January 31, 2013. The Amendment acknowledges that the DOJ’s January 31, 2012 technical advisory caused “significant concerns and misunderstandings among a substantial number of pool owners and operators” with respect to the new technical requirements for pool lifts.

Background to the extension

The DOJ recently received and carefully considered comments from pool owners, operators and various industry groups and clarified a number of popular misconceptions about the new requirements. At the end of the day, the DOJ seems to have heard the public outcry, in part.

In its Technical Advisory Document of January 31, 2012, the DOJ sent tsunami-sized waves through the hospitality and pool and spa industries when it announced, for the first time, its interpretation that pool and spa lifts are required to be “fixed” (as opposed to portable) next to the pool or spa at all times the facility is open, unless it is not “readily achievable,” and they cannot be shared between water elements.

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Published on:

07 May 2012

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Hotel Lawyer ADA defense alert: Charles Schwab settles claim over website accessibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act

On May 2, 2012, Charles Schwab & Co. announced an initiative to make its website more accessible for all customers, particularly those who are blind or have sight disabilities. This high-profile development was part of the settlement of a claim by Kit Lau, a Charles Schwab customer for more than 25 years.

While many have focused on the Americans with Disabilities Act’s (ADA’s) ever-changing pool lift requirements, we continue to see the DOJ and private advocacy groups driving to enforce the original regulations promulgated 20 years ago under the ADA. As of December 31, 2011, more than 13,130 lawsuits had been filed under the ADA, and the trend continues to grow.

Here is what Marty Orlick, the head of our ADA compliance and defense group, and I think the Schwab matter may mean to you.

Charles Schwab settlement is one of 15 prominent web site settlements

Charles Schwab, one of the nation’s leading securities broker-dealers, and a disability rights advocacy attorney, announced last week that they settled a year-long claim by a blind customer that its website was inaccessible to blind, low vision and cognitively challenged customers. The structured negotiations concluded this dispute short of trial.

With this settlement, Charles Schwab joins a list of 15 prominent companies which have settled website accessibility complaints. Charles Schwab agreed that it will make its website more accessible and inclusive for all customers, and agreed to implement the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Version 2.0 Level AA which will make its website navigable by disabled customers.

An informal complaint backed by the threat of litigation and administrative investigations was lodged with Charles Schwab by the lawyer for a blind day trader. The claimant was a long-time Schwab customer and herself a computer programmer. One morning, she found that she could no longer navigate the Schwab website using JAWS software and was prevented from making trades on-line. The JAWs software reads aloud the text of the page so blind and low vision customers can access the website.

Click here to read a copy of the Charles Schwab Settlement Agreement.

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