Running a small business means knowing all about employment laws and safety regulations. You have to comply with state and federal laws regarding how you treat employees and the way you maintain your facilities.
If you make your business open to the public or if you have multiple employees, you likely also have to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is a crucial federal law that establishes protections for employees with disabling medical conditions. It also grants certain rights to members of the public who have conditions that affect their daily lives.
Under the ADA, those facing discrimination from their employer or who experience discrimination when visiting a business can potentially initiate legal action against the company involved. What might be at risk for your business in an ADA claim?
Each infraction could lead to thousands of dollars in fines
The point of the ADA is not specifically to penalize businesses but rather to inspire compliance with the law. However, the more alleged violations the business has committed, the more expensive the accusations become.
Under the ADA, a non-compliant business, property owners, and websites could face thousands of dollars in fines, penalties, damages, and attorney’s fees. What’s more, there is no stopping multiple plaintiffs from filing lawsuits over the same issues. This is true of both physical issues, like how parking spaces are setup, paths of travel to get into a business, and how the inside of a business is configured and also up how a business web-site is set up, in relation to people with disabilities tying to access the information on the website. Each alleged violation could lead to more fines. This is no small matter. Insurance almost never will cover these types of claims. If a business looks at it’s general liability policy (GL policy), often claims require “personal injury damages” or property damage, which often is defined to exclude damages from “discrimination” which these cases generally claim. There may be some specialized policies that cover and a business can look into these, but consulting with an experienced ADA lawyer is generally the best approach.
Those fines will be in addition to whatever expenses the business incurs remedying the infraction. Needing to make major changes to your building could cost thousands more than that. The same could be true of needing to completely rebuild your website to make it more ADA-compliant for those using the internet with visual impairments.
How can your company protect against losses due to ADA issues?
Ideally, your business will be proactive about its compliance with federal discrimination laws to avoid complaints. Analyzing your employment practices and your facilities for potential ADA compliance problems could help you address issues before anyone ever makes a claim. If a worker or a visitor to your property, business, or website tries to file an ADA lawsuit against your company, you may need to go to court to defend your business.
Understanding the consequences of an ADA lawsuit can help you better respond to one or inspire you to be proactive about avoiding one.