Great moments in discrimination law: Joel Nixon, who has been diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa and is legally blind, was fired from his job at Tony’s barber shop in South Easton, Mass. He says he had been giving men’s haircuts for years to customers’ satisfaction but was fired after a 2012 incident “when he tripped over a customer’s legs. Later in the day, he tripped over a chair in the waiting room.” His former employer Tony Morales calls the allegations “a bunch of lies” but “did not appear at numerous hearings and parted ways with an attorney who was supposed to help him.” The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, the state civil rights agency, awarded Nixon $75,000 in lost wages and $25,000 for emotional distress. [Bob McGovern, Boston Herald]
- “How to write an overlawyered email, in 4 easy steps!” [Inspired Law Blog]
- Fifth Circuit upholds conviction of Texas lawyer Marc Rosenthal over pattern of fraud including but not limited to suborning of false witness testimony;
- Emoticons/emojis begin arriving in court as evidence, a federal judge in Michigan having already been “asked to rule on the meaning of ‘:-P.'” [Amanda Hess, Slate]
- Disabled access regulations as hobble-thy-competitor method: “AT&T says T-Mobile and Sprint Wi-Fi calling violates disability rules” [ArsTechnica]
- From back in 2012, but missed: a law professor’s book assails fine print in contracts, and Scott Greenfield responds;
- So strange how many expert witnesses say they have no idea how much they make [Brendan Kenny, Lawyerist]
- Get those troops out of my house: “A symposium on the oft-neglected Third Amendment” [Ilya Somin]
A plaintiff whose PTSD symptoms include extreme agoraphobia argues that Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other laws require a local drugstore to let him shop after hours by way of according a quieter, less stressful experience. He has thus far enjoyed some success with his federal claim. [Callum v. CVS Health, U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina]
- 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.