Website Accessibility Lawsuits Are on the Rise
By Roy Maurer February 21, 2019
Businesses that had to make their physical spaces more accessible for people with disabilities since the enactment of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) increasingly find that they must do the same for online access. Website accessibility lawsuits filed in federal court nearly tripled in 2018, from 814 the year before to 2,258, according to a report by law firm Seyfarth Shaw.
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Wake-Up Call for HR
The lawsuits, filed in 14 states—led by New York with 1,564 such suits—allege that the sites are not accessible to the blind or visually impaired. The businesses that were sued represent a wide variety of industries, including retail, hospitality, education and the streaming service Hulu.
In January, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court's decision to dismiss a website accessibility lawsuit against Domino's Pizza. That ruling could make California's federal courts an attractive venue for plaintiffs and cause the number of website accessibility lawsuits in the state to increase dramatically in 2019, Seyfarth Shaw noted.
While the explosion in lawsuits has not specifically focused on employers' careers sites and job portals, the general trend should be a wake-up call for employers that want to avoid litigation.
Job Applicants Starting to Sue
Lawsuits against employers over careers sites and online applications have slowly followed litigation over public accommodations for website-accessibility.
In late 2018, a flurry of complaints were filed in California, challenging the accessibility of online job application platforms under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.
According to the National Organization on Disability's 2018 assessment of nearly 200 companies, only 49 percent reported that their recruiting websites and intranets were compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) by the World Wide Web Consortium, as recommended by most courts.
Make Your Careers Sites More Accessible
Employers committed to diversifying their applicant pools and improving candidates' experience need to be aware of problems that applicants with disabilities may have when they try to access careers sites, job portals and electronic applications.
The ADA requires employers to provide a level playing field for workers with disabilities. These resources can help HR avoid discrimination by providing reasonable accommodations.