ADA Lawsuit Abuse

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 What is the ADA?

The ADA stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA is a federal law which ensures that individuals with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as individuals who do not have disabilities.

The ADA is intended to prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities in:

  • Public accomodations;
  • Commercial facilities and businesses;
  • Transportation; and
  • Employment.

The ADA was passed in 1990 by Congress. It is similar to the prohibitions of discrimination in the United States which are based upon:

  • National origin,
  • Race; and
  • Gender.

This prohibition against discrimination extends to:

  • Local, state, and federal government services;
  • Public accomodations;
  • Commercial facilities; and
  • Transportation.

The ADA provides that employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations so that the employment and workplace is accessible to their disabled employees. Employers are also required to make reasonable accommodations to ensure customers with disabilities also have access. Penalties will apply for an employer’s failure to comply with the requirements of the law.

The ADA provides specific definitions of what constitutes a disability. A disability under the ADA is a condition which substantially limits an individual’s major life activity, such as:

  • Walking;
  • Feeding themselves; or
  • Dressing themselves.

A disability under the ADA may either be mental or physical. The ADA specifically requires an employer to make a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s disability.
In addition, employers are required to provide disabled individuals reasonable access to their establishments. This may often include making existing facilities more accessible to disabled employees and patrons, including taking steps such as:

  • Installing wheelchair ramps and handrails;
  • Modifying bathroom stalls to be wheelchair accessible;
  • Modifying work schedules; or
  • Providing other reasonable accommodations for an employee’s situation.

What are ADA Accommodations?

Accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act include modifications or adjustments of some form to make the work or retail environment or the way a job is done so that patrons and employees have access to the business. It may also include modifications or adjustments to the hiring process in order to ensure that individuals with disabilities are able to apply for jobs along with individuals who do not have a disability.

Pursuant to the ADA, employers and businesses are required to make accommodations which are reasonable. The nature of the work of the employee as well as the business environment are taken into consideration when determining what is a reasonable accommodation.

Accommodations which would impose an undue hardship on the employer will not be required. An accommodation which is excessively expensive or difficult to implement would be considered an undue hardship and would not be considered a reasonable accommodation.

When a court is considering a request for an accommodation, it would use a balancing test and weigh the nature of the accommodation against the financial burden that would be placed on the employer. The benefit of retaining the employee is also a consideration.

It is the responsibility of the employer to exhaust every reasonable solution prior to determining that the request for an accommodation creates an undue hardship.

What is ADA Lawsuit Abuse?

An Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit is a case which involves a claim of discrimination of a lack of reasonable accommodation as required under the ADA. Although many of these claims are legitimate, there are also many instances where plaintiffs may attempt to abuse the system.

Additionally, ADA lawsuit abuse may also occur when an individual files multiple lawsuits under the ADA, many times without suffering any real injuries. Common examples of ADA lawsuits may include when individuals visit several business establishments within the intent to identify ADA violations, which may include the lack of handicapped parking spaces or the lack of wheelchair ramps, and then suing that business for their injuries.

In certain instances, the individual may drive by the establishment and search for violations in the parking lot or outside of the business and never actually enter the establishment or attempt to conduct any business there. These individuals can target several businesses at once, often with the intent to win a large sum of money from the business for their claimed injuries.

Are there Legal Penalties for Lawsuit Abuse?

Yes, there may be legal penalties for lawsuit abuse. Filing a frivolous lawsuit may lead to legal penalties, including:

  • Charges of contempt of court;
  • Monetary fines; and
  • Possible criminal charges.

There may also be other penalties, depending upon the state in which the frivolous lawsuit is filed. Frivolous lawsuits are wastes of time as well as resources.

A court may be especially infuriated when taxpayer funds are tied up in court hearings for a frivolous lawsuit. The court may issue a strict penalty which is intended to discourage filing lawsuits with little to no basis in fact.

Others individuals contend, however, that even if these ADA cases are settled outside of the courtroom, the plaintiffs in the ADA claims are, in fact, drawing attention to important issues for individuals with disabilities.

Some individuals may argue that litigation, or the fear of litigation, has been a great force of change in forcing businesses to install and properly designate:

  • Parking spaces;
  • Ramps;
  • Handrails; and
  • Counters.

How have Laws Changed to Adapt to ADA Lawsuit Abuse?

There are many local municipalities and states which have become aware of ADA lawsuit abuse because these types of frivolous lawsuits have become more commonplace in the court systems. This is largely because of the amounts which a plaintiff may be able to win in certain cases.

In some jurisdictions, the local rules have been adjusted to combat the issue of ADA lawsuit abuse. For example, some states have started requiring that plaintiffs be responsible for the legal fees of the defendant if they do not prevail in their lawsuit.

This practice is intended to deter individuals from filing lawsuits which have basis in fact or those that have a low likelihood of success in court. There are other states which have altered the minimum amount that an individual is required to claim in order to file an ADA lawsuit.

The reasoning behind this is that this change will subject business owners to lesser penalties when they are unsuccessful in court. Some states are also considering changing their laws in order to help cut down on the threshold which allows abusive or predatory ADA lawsuits.

For example, certain states may allow a small business time to fix or cure certain technical violations of the ADA without incurring a penalty. Although this provision will allow a business to avoid penalties from the authorities, the business may still be subject to an ADA lawsuit in civil court.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with ADA Lawsuit Abuse Issues?

It is essential to have the assistance of a discrimination lawyer for any ADA lawsuit abuse issues you may be facing. The ADA can be very complex, as it has hundreds of requirements which are outlined for businesses to follow in terms of accessibility to the public.

If you suspect you may be the target of a if a frivolous ADA lawsuit, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can advise you regarding the requirements under the ADA, review your case, and help you present the best possible defense while also protecting your rights.

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