Welcome to this month’s edition of “ADA in the News,” featuring recent news, updates, events, and rulings regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Major Retailer Pays $100K over Lack of Captions
A major multinational retail corporation will pay $100,000 to settle a disability discrimination suit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) over a lack of closed captioned training videos and sign language interpreters for employees at one of its stores.
The EEOC charged that Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, a subsidiary of Walmart, Inc., refused to provide communication accommodations, such as access to sign language interpreters and closed captioned training videos, to two deaf employees who worked at Walmart store in Northwest Washington, D.C.
The employees are entitled to “reasonable accommodations” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) so they are able to participate in and learn from workplace meetings, training sessions, and other communications, the EEOC said.
In addition to paying the settlement, Wal-Mart Stores East will revise its management guidelines for providing reasonable accommodations, provide training to management and employees on ADA requirements and the process for requesting reasonable accommodations, and, most importantly, provide deaf and hard-of-hearing employees and job applicants effective accommodations so they can participate in workplace communications and have equal employment opportunities.
Wireless Company Sued Over Lack of Accommodations
A lawsuit claims that Washington-based Northwest Wireless Enterprises, LLC, an independent retailer of T-Mobile products and services, violated federal law when it stopped accommodating a sales associate with severe hearing loss and, instead, fired her.
According to the suit, the employee informed Northwest Wireless about her severe hearing loss at the time she was hired in 2017. However, the suit claims that a new store manager decided he was tired of repeating himself when communicating with her and openly expressed to other employees his desire to fire her.
The employee alerted the company owner as well as the district manager in May 2018 that the new store manager wanted to fire her because of her disability. The suit says that no action was taken in response to the internal complaint, and that Northwest Wireless fired her in June 2018 for alleged attendance and performance issues without prior warning.
The suit seeks monetary damages as well as having Northwest Wireless provide training on anti-discrimination laws and posting of notices at the work site.
School District Adding Captions to Streaming Meetings
A California school district once again will begin live streaming its meetings, this time with closed captions to make them accessible for everyone.
Laguna Beach Unified School District board members gave the preliminary OK to purchase equipment necessary – including microphones, camera accessories, and backup recording devices – to live stream their meetings. The district also will look to hire a live captioner to caption board proceedings.
The district halted its live-streaming service in May, when it learned that its videos were not ADA compliant because there was no closed captioning.
Since suspending the live stream, the district has recorded board meetings and posted the videos to its website and YouTube, where they can be viewed with captions. The board will continue this practice until contracts for new hardware and a live captioner are signed.
EEOC Sues after Hard-of-Hearing Employee Fired
A Louisiana specialty coating and sandblasting company has agreed to settle a suit over an alleged violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Tamco Professional Coating Services, Inc. will pay a foreperson $90,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The suit alleged that Tamco told the foreperson that its insurance costs would increase because of the foreperson’s hearing loss and that, soon after, the company fired the foreperson. According to the lawsuit, Tamco discharged the employee without following its own progressive discipline process. This alleged conduct is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which makes it unlawful for an employer to fire an employee because of disability.
The company also agrees to conduct training.
ADA Title III Lawsuits Continue to Climb in 2019
According to data from law firm Seyfarth Shaw, nearly 5,600 ADA Title III lawsuits were filed in federal court between January 1 and June 30 of this year, representing a 12% increase in suits filed over the same span in 2018.
If the lawsuits continue to be filed at the current rate, the number of federal ADA Title III lawsuits filed in 2019 will top 11,000, marking a fifth-straight year of filing increases.
California continues to lead the country with 2,444 federal ADA Title III lawsuits in the first six months of 2019, with New York coming in second with 1,212 such suits. Florida is third with 1,074 federal suits.
Most of the cases concern allegedly inaccessible physical facilities or websites, but Seyfarth says that there also have been a number of lawsuits claiming that hotels are not putting accessibility information on their reservation websites as required by the ADA, as well as others regarding service animals and sign language interpreters.
How VITAC Can Help
As the largest captioning company in the country, VITAC works closely with caption clients, viewers, and advocates. Though not all video must be captioned by law, we strongly believe that everything should be as captions provide myriad benefits for all.
Providing accessible solutions – whether it be via captioned content or sign language interpreters – not only satisfies ADA requirements but also is the right thing to do.