You likely know by now that federal agencies have made rooting out disability discrimination a top priority. And you likely expected lawsuits to increase in this area. But did you expect things to reach this point this quickly?
Compared to 2015’s figures, ADA Title III lawsuits have increased 62.4% in 2016, according to the law firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP, which tracks ADA lawsuits and trends carefully.
From January 1, 2015 to June 30, 2015 the number of ADA lawsuits filed in federal court was 2,114, according to the law firm.
Over the same period in 2016, a whopping 3,435 ADA lawsuits were filed (a 62.4% increase).
If the exact same number of lawsuits are filed in the second half of 2016, that would put the total at 6,870 by the end of the year. That would be a 43.4% increase over 2015’s final tally.
What’s most alarming?
Those figures are nothing compared to the jump we’ve seen from 2013 to present day.
In 2013, the total number of ADA lawsuits filed in federal court was 2,722, according to Seyfarth Shaw.
That means if ADA lawsuits continue trending the way they have been for 2016 — and they top out at 6,870 by the end of the year — ADA lawsuits would’ve jumped 152.3% over the past three years.
That number again: $152.3% over the past three years!
Based on the lawsuits Seyfarth Shaw is involved in, it estimates that most the the lawsuits are related to physical access barriers.
The law firm also warned that there’s been a steady uptick in lawsuits concerning websites’ ability to provide adequate access to individuals with disabilities.
Is your recruiting website ADA compliant?
This is a trend employers need to be aware of: Employee-side attorneys are suing companies claiming their websites are subject to the ADA but fail to comply.
And despite a lack of Web-specific guidance from the feds, the Department of Justice (DOJ) – which says official guidance is coming – has taken the stance employer websites should be accessible to those with disabilities.
In fact, the DOJ has intervened in a few lawsuits and negotiated settlements requiring employers to alter online content to make it accessible to those with hearing and vision impairments.
What does this mean for HR?
With the DOJ’s backing, you can bet more of these lawsuits are coming.
As a result, it can pay to speak with your IT folks to make sure your general website – including online recruiting operations – is accessible to those with disabilities.
Guidelines for website access the DOJ has supported in some cases come from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international community that develops open standards to ensure the long-term growth of the Web. You can find the guidelines here.