Website Access Class Action Suits on the Rise

Leave it to your friendly employment law attorney to suggest a New Year’s resolution for your business: make sure your company website and point-of-sale (POS) terminals are accessible to disabled individuals. Not doing so can be expensive in terms of both time and money.

The National Law Review recently published an article predicting that 2019 will bring an increased number of Federal class action lawsuits alleging that certain business websites and terminals violate Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The lawsuits target businesses that have failed to remove obstacles that interfere with disabled individuals’ access to work and job-related information. Typically, the claims involve groups of visually impaired consumers.

Already, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a California district court’s dismissal of a website accessibility lawsuit against Domino’s. The opinion does not specify what will and will not meet ADA requirements, instructing the district court to proceed with discovery and determine compliance. Still, it clears the way for more website and mobile cases.

To avoid lawsuits for ADA violations, your business should review its website to ensure that it complies with the ADA, state laws, and local ordinances. A widely accepted set of industry standards for website accessibility is the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Meeting WCAG standards, while no guarantee of compliance, will limit your exposure.

Accepting employment applications through company websites can also present ADA challenges. To minimize your liability, consider these steps:

  • Ensure that job announcements on networking sites and job boards are in formats accessible to jobseekers with disabilities.
  • Clearly state on job announcements that qualified individuals with disabilities are encouraged to apply and that reasonable accommodations will be provided.
  • Verify that online application systems, including online pre-employment tests, are accessible to job candidates with disabilities. The Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology provides valuable tips on this process.
  • Confirm that interview locations are physically accessible. The ADA website has information on building accessibility.
  • Inform applicants in advance about what the interview process involves and give them the opportunity to request a reasonable accommodation, if needed.
  • Provide reasonable accommodations at all stages of the hiring process when needed, including staff assigned to approve and arrange requested accommodations.

We will continue to keep you informed about ADA developments that affect you. And, as always, we are always ready to help you ensure compliance with the ADA and other employment laws.

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