Over the past few years, an increasingly large number of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuits are being filed in local jurisdictions as well as the Federal Courts. Many of these actions are being filed by “attorney trolls” looking to “shakedown” local small businesses.
Early in my career I worked with people who are differently abled and felt a sense of great satisfaction when the ADA was signed. We all saw the legislation as progress toward a more inclusive community recognizing the strengths of our brothers and sisters who were different. Today, I am excited about so many of the changes that have been made over the past 25 years. I am however saddened by the “weaponization” of the ADA by some attorneys willing to extort small business owners with no real purpose to create constructive engagement.
This strategy in the last couple of years has been particularly targeted at websites that are not ADA compliant. There are articles and posts everywhere about the proliferation of these lawsuits. We recently had to help a customer deal with an ADA lawsuit alleging that he didn’t provide assistive listening devices to a customer on a Karaoke night. He doesn’t remember being asked for listening devices and the suit was filed 8 months after the date of the event. How does this lawsuit help the community, how does this help to create more inclusion? The simple answer is it doesn’t and from the outside it gives all the ADA naysayers more ammunition.
The ADA has been particularly useful in helping organizations facilitate the inclusion and job opportunities for the disabled community but this behavior sets the movement back. It is not easy for small business owners having to deal with these kinds of lawsuits. Many business owners don’t know that there is no coverage for this type of lawsuit in their commercial general liability policy. And many don’t know that they can obtain this 3rd party coverage through an employment practices liability (EPL) policy.
It is best for business owners to consider obtaining and reviewing their policy coverages and avail themselves of the free legal assistance provided within the EPL policy. And to seek advice from a seasoned HR professional with ADA experience. PIASC Insurance Services provides HR consulting, ADA compliance services and other Risk Management solutions (insurance products), please contact us if you have any questions.
Article Written by Dennis Bernstein, VP of Commercial Insurance