Disability Discrimination (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”) has been a tremendous source of litigation since its passage nearly thirty years ago. The ADA was originally put in motion to provide equal access to physical locations and services. It generally requires establishments to provide people with disabilities easy access to a business. But in 2016, the ADA began to include websites. The ultimate goal of the ADA is to eliminate exclusivity and offer an equal experience to all people. Thus, the logic goes, businesses should be inviting to everybody via physical location and website.

Over the past year, plaintiff attorneys have developed a cottage industry by filing thousands of lawsuits alleging that company websites are not accessible to the blind or visually impaired. From 2017-18, lawsuits targeting website compliance have increased by 177%, with more than 2,000 filed in 2018. Often times the same disabled individual (with the same attorney) will file these claims. They seek an injunction to make the company’s website ADA accessible and attorneys’ fees. A nominal settlement will quickly follow (typically a few thousand dollars) with the vast majority of this going to the attorney. Florida is a breeding ground for this drive-by litigation, and it is frustrating the federal courts. See Price v. Escalante – Black Diamond Golf Club LLC, No. 5:19-CV-22-OC-30PRL, 2019 WL 1905865, at *1 (M.D. Fla. Apr. 29, 2019).

Lack of Guidance


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Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing guest posts from our member firms with the Florida Law Alliance, who will be producing an employment law conference on November 10, 2017, at the Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel.

Today’s post is from Craig Salner, a partner at the Clarke Silverglate law firm in Miami:

Most South Florida practitioners are familiar with the barrage of recent lawsuits against places of public accommodation challenging their equal accessibility for the disabled. The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), a statute more known for its ban on disability discrimination in the workplace, has a section known as “Title III” which requires places of public accommodation to provide equal access to persons with disabilities. ADA Title III requirements typically have been applied to components of a business’s physical structure – appropriate linking of the parking lot to the adjacent sidewalk, sufficient main floor space for a wheelchair-bound patron to ambulate between and around aisles, bathrooms with sufficient space to maneuver with reachable soap and paper dispensers, etc.

Successful ADA Title III litigants are entitled to injunctive relief (i.e., the accessibility flaws must be remedied) plus attorney’s fees. Despite the lack of monetary damages available to litigants, ADA Title III litigation has spiked in South Florida with the emergence of certain serial “tester” plaintiffs – specific individuals claiming to test places of public accommodation for ADA Title III compliance and suing in instances of alleged non-compliance. Title III ADA lawsuits have nearly tripled nationwide in the last three years, rising from 2,722 in 2013 to 6,601 in 2016, including a 37 percent increase from 2015 to 2016. Florida is second only to California in the number of 2016 filings.

Are Internet websites places of public accommodation covered by Title III of the ADA?


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Human resource keyboardMake plans now to attend the biggest employment law conference in Southwest Florida, HR Law & Solutions, now in its 25th year! Henderson Franklin’s Employment Law and Workers’ Compensation attorneys will return to Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa in Fort Myers on Friday, March 10, 2017, for a fun-filled day of education.

ergo chair via Kare Products FlickrConsider this scenario:

Carmen Parada worked for Banco Industrial de Venezuela in New York as a credit analyst, a largely sedentary job that involved organizing credit letter applications, ensuring that certain documents complied with various standards, and issuing credit letters. In 2007, she fell on the sidewalk and suffered a spinal injury in her lower back. As a result, the employee was directed by her doctor to avoid “prolonged sitting” and to stand after 10 or 15 minutes of sitting. She borrowed a colleague’s ergonomic office chair temporarily, and was able to sit using that chair without the need for standing breaks. The employee asked her employer (a bank) multiple times for a permanent ergonomic chair as a “reasonable accommodation” under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). However, she never received the chair and was ultimately terminated.

Which of the following statements is correct?

A. The bank may deny the employee’s request for the ergonomic chair as a reasonable accommodation under ADA, since she is not precluded from sitting at all times.

B. The bank must grant the employee’s request for breaks to allow her to stand after 10-15 minutes of sitting as a reasonable accommodation under ADA but is not required to provide the chair at the employer’s expense.

C. The bank must grant the employee’s request to either stand periodically or use an ergonomic chair, but not both, and the employee has to pay for her own chair.

D. The bank must grant the employee’s request and provide the chair at the employer’s expense, if the employee can show that she is a qualified individual with a disability and the chair will allow her to perform the essential functions of her job.


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chemical allergyConsider this scenario. Cathy works for Clean As a Whistle, Inc. as a janitor. Cathy recently developed a sensitivity to all cleaning chemicals. Initially, Cathy brought in a doctor’s note limiting her to two hours of chemical exposure per eight hour work day. Clean As a Whistle agreed to limit her exposure to two hours. When that limitation failed to abate Cathy’s symptoms, her doctor modified the restriction to “no exposure to cleaning solutions.”

Clean As a Whistle tried to find a solution for Cathy, but ultimately determined there was no way to accommodate her because the chemicals were airborne so merely working in the building resulted in exposure, and providing a respirator was too expensive. After she was terminated, Cathy sued.

Did Clean As a Whistle violate the ADA?

A.  Yes, because Clean As a Whistle did not engage in the interactive process.

B.  No, because Cathy did not have a disability.

C.  Yes, because Clean As a Whistle should have provided a respirator.

D.  No, because Cathy was not “qualified” to do her job based on the doctor’s restriction.


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man construction worker tired sweating silhouetteContinuing in our series to test your employment law IQ, this week we will focus on FMLA requests often received in HR offices.

Scenario: Henry Fixit worked as a maintenance man for Sleep Inn for almost 20 years. Sleep Inn has 105 employees. As part of Fixit’s regular duties, he was constantly climbing ladders, lifting heavy equipment, and performing other physical labor. Fixit recently suffered a non work-related injury that required surgery. He requested FMLA leave, which Sleep Inn approved. After two months, Fixit gave Sleep Inn’s HR Director a doctor’s note, stating that Fixit was able to return to work, but with certain lifting and bending instructions. When Sleep Inn refused to create a light duty position for Fixit, Fixit sued for FMLA interference.

Which of the following statements is correct?

A.  Sleep Inn interfered with Fixit’s FMLA entitlement when it refused to offer him a light duty position.

B.  Sleep Inn is not liable for FMLA interference, but it would be liable under workers’ compensation laws for its failure to create a light duty position.

C.  Sleep Inn is not required to create a light duty position for Fixit.

D.  None of the above.


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Happy 2014! Can you believe it is another new year? Time flies!employee termination

We will be finishing up our Employment Law IQ series in the next few weeks. Today’s question involves the sticky overlap of the ADA and FMLA, two laws that can be difficult even for seasoned HR professionals to navigate.

Scenario. Lucy Lawless works as an associate attorney at Dewey, Sue & Howe, the biggest law firm in Southwest Florida. Lawless, a lifetime smoker, was recently diagnosed with lung cancer. Dewey, Sue & Howe, which calculates FMLA leave on a calendar basis, grants Lawless 12 weeks of leave under the FMLA. Lawless is unable to return to work after 12 weeks, so Dewey, Sue & Howe grants Lawless an additional six months leave. At the end of six months, Dewey, Sue & Howe granted Lawless an additional period of leave, up to the anniversary date of her first request for leave. On the anniversary date, Lawless requests additional leave, but does not provide Dewey, Sue & Howe with any doctor’s note or certification to verify her request. Dewey, Sue & Howe terminates her.

Which of the following statements is correct?

A.  Dewey, Sue & Howe violated the ADA by failing to grant Lawless additional leave.

B.  Dewey, Sue & Howe violated the FMLA by failing to grant Lawless additional leave.

C.  Dewey, Sue & Howe violated both the ADA and FMLA by failing to grant Lawless additional leave.

D.  None of the above.


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surprised young woman holding white empty paper isolated on whiteContinuing our Employment Law IQ series, today we focus on Anxious Annie. Anxious Annie works as a receptionist for P U Waste Disposal. She is a decent employee, but seems to have trouble coming to work on time, and often calls in “sick” on Mondays and Fridays. When Annie is written up for absenteeism, Annie tells her supervisor she needs a leave of absence to deal with panic attacks. Annie’s supervisor reports the request to P U’s HR Director, but laughs it off and says the request “smells funny.” P U has more than 15 employees.

Which of the following statements is correct?

A.  Because Annie’s disability is not obvious, P U is entitled to receive “reasonable documentation” about the disability and its functional limitations.

B.  Because Annie’s disability is not obvious, P U can ask to see Annie’s medical records.

C.  Because Annie’s disability is not obvious, P U can ask about the nature of the disability and its functional limitations.

D.  Both A and C are correct.


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The final regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (“ADAAA”) are effective today, May 24, 2011.  As you probably know, the new regulations highlight the ADAAA’s broader definition of disability.  This means more individuals will be considered disabled, thus qualifying for protection under the ADA.  The focus now will likely be on the

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) announced the filing of three new disability discrimination cases in a recent press release.  These cases, which were filed under the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (“ADAAA”), allege discrimination against qualified individuals with diabetes, cancer, and severe arthritis.

You should recall that the ADA was amended by