ADA Public Accommodations Law Reform on its Way?

By Jamie LaPlante, Partner, Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP

This post originally appeared on the Employer Law Report blog on February 16, 2018.

On February 15, 2018, The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill, the ADA Education and Reform Act (HB 620), that would impose new requirements on plaintiffs before they file a lawsuit. Places of public accommodations, including websites and apps, would have 6 months to bring their place of public accommodation into compliance before a claimant could file a lawsuit seeking injunctive relief and attorneys’ fees.

Any employer who is also a place of public accommodation knows that lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title III have long posed a problem for businesses. Businesses want to comply but are often unaware of minor issues of noncompliance at their facilities. This law, if it passes the Senate and is signed by President Trump, would allow businesses notice of the alleged issues of noncompliance and a grace period to fix the issues before they would face potential liability for attorneys’ fees and costs.

Given the recent flurry of lawsuits and demand letters regarding the accessibility of websites, the bill’s sponsors stated during discussion on the bill that this law would apply to website accessibility in jurisdictions where the ADA has been applied to websites.

The measure also would require the Department of Justice to establish a program for educating governments and property owners on how to enhance accommodations for individuals with disabilities.

For employers in Ohio, similar efforts have been proposed each year for the last several years but have not gained any traction thus far. The current proposal passed out of committee and is awaiting action by the full Ohio House of Representatives.

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