Businesses and individuals looking to find solutions to help accommodate persons with disabilities may find a new free app for Apple Devices from the Department of Defense (DOD) Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program helpful. The new application now available in the iTunes App store lets users browse the latest news and tips on assistive technology, scan CAP’s calendar of events and stay connected to the disability community. DOD says an Android version is coming soon.
CAP works to make the Federal Government a model employer of people with disabilities by providing job accommodations and equal access to electronic and information technology. With disabilities and other discrimination law compliance audit and enforcement rising, this new application provides another timely resource for government contractors and agencies, and other businesses looking to provide accommodations and manage disability risks.
Managing disability risks and meeting accommodation obligations is increasingly important as US government agencies place growing emphasis on enforcing disability discrimination laws and regulations that increasingly result in significant liability for U.S. businesses.
For instance, in June, 2012, the U.S. Justice Department announced a $10,250,000 settlement with JPI Construction L.P. (JPI) and six other JPI firms is the largest-ever disability-based housing discrimination settlement. The settlement resolves Justice Department charges the JPI and its affiliates illegally discriminated on the basis of disability in the design and construction of multifamily housing complexes.
Under the settlement of disability charges initiated against JPI a few years ago, JPI will pay $10,250,000 into an accessibility fund to update properties so they comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act (FHA), and to increase the availability of housing that is accessible to people with disabilities.
The record settlement follows the reaffirmation of the Obama Administration’s continuing committment to find and punish companies that illegally discriminate or fail to provide required accommodations in violation of Federal disability discrimination laws made by President Obama and others to mark the 13th Anniversary of the June 22, 1999 Supreme Court decision in Olmstead v. L.C.
As part of that anniversary celebration of Olmstead, the Obama Administration reaffirmed its continuing commitment to fight disability discriminated and touted the success of its “significant progress continuing to enforce Olmstead as well as more broadly helping to level the playing field for people with disabilities.”
In Olmstead, the Supreme Court ruled in that the unjustified institutional isolation of people with disabilities is a form of unlawful discrimination under the ADA.
In marking the 13th anniversary of this decision, President Obama said, “As we mark the anniversary of this historic civil rights decision, we reaffirm our commitment to fighting discrimination, and to addressing the needs and concerns of those living with disabilities.”
In reaffirming this commitment, the Administration highlighted its past and continuing efforts to enforce disability discrimination laws, as well as other activities to support individuals with disability.
As part of its significant commitment to disability discrimination enforcement, the Civil Rights Division at the Department has been involved in more than 40 Olmstead matters in 25 states. Recently, in Virginia, the Department entered into a landmark settlement agreement with the Commonwealth, which will shift Virginia’s developmental disabilities system from one heavily reliant on large, state-run institutions to one focused on safe, individualized, and community-based services that promote integration, independence and full participation by people with disabilities in community life. The agreement expands and strengthens every aspect of the Commonwealth’s system of serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in integrated settings, and it does so through a number of services and supports. The Department has a website dedicated to Olmstead enforcement, which includes links to settlements, briefs, findings letters, and other materials. The settlement agreements are a reminder that private businesses and state and local government agencies alike should exercise special care to prepare to defend their actions against potential disability or other Civil Rights discrimination challenges. All organizations, whether public or private need to make sure both that their organizations, their policies, and people in form and in action understand and comply with current disability and other nondiscrimination laws. When reviewing these responsibilities, many state and local governments and private businesses may need to update their understanding of current requirements. The scope and applicability of disability and various other federal nondiscrimination and other laws have been expanded or modified in recent years by statutory, regulatory or enforcement changes.
These Justice Department efforts also are reflected in the companion enforcement efforts to investigate and prosecute disability discrimination by the Labor Department Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in employment, the HUD and related areas, the Department of Education in education and related fields and a host of other agencies.
Where the entity is a private or government agency that is a government contractor or receiving other federal funds or grants, compliance with the ADA and other nondiscrimination and civil rights laws is particularly important as the contracts or regulations pursuant to which these funds are granted typically require compliance with these and other special nondiscrimination rules. In the case of funds provided under the 2009 Stimulus Bill, the scope of businesses subject to these requirements and the likelihood of audits was specifically increased in many ways, making recipients of these funds at particular risk for failing to fulfill requirements.
These Federal enforcement activities are further heightened by rising private litigation of disability claims. These public and private actions are encouraged by changes made by Congress to the ADA, which make it easier for plaintiff’s bringing disabilities claims to win, as well as the proactive agenda of the Obama Administration in enforcing disability discrimination laws.
In light of these continuing enforcement efforts, businesses should continue and heighten their diligence against possible disability discrimination exposures by strengthening policies, practices, training and documentation to keep up compliance and to position to defend against possible charges.
For Help With Disability Discrimination & Risk, Performance & Compliance Management
If you need help in auditing or assessing, updating or defending your organization’s compliance, risk management or other internal controls practices or actions to manage disability discrimination or other risks, please contact the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer here or at (469)767-8872.
Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, management attorney and consultant Ms. Stamer is nationally and internationally recognized for more than 24 years of work helping businesses manage and defend against disability and other discrimination risks under housing, health care, employment, and other laws as well as deal with other risk management, compliance and other performance and regulatory related risks. She also advises and represents businesses on compensation and related serivces matters, as well as advises employee benefit plans and their sponsors, administrators, fiduciaries; employee leasing, recruiting, staffing and other professional employment organizations; and others design, administer and defend innovative workforce, compensation, employee benefit and management policies and practices. Her experience includes extensive work helping employers implement, audit, manage and defend union-management relations, wage and hour, discrimination and other labor and employment laws, privacy and data security, internal investigation and discipline and other workforce and internal controls policies, procedures and actions. The Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Committee, a Council Representative on the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, Government Affairs Committee Legislative Chair for the Dallas Human Resources Management Association, and past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer works, publishes and speaks extensively on management, re-engineering, investigations, human resources and workforce, employee benefits, compensation, internal controls and risk management, federal sentencing guideline and other enforcement resolution actions, and related matters. She also is recognized for her publications, industry leadership, workshops and presentations on these and other human resources concerns and regularly speaks and conducts training on these matters.Her insights on these and other matters appear in the Bureau of National Affairs, Spencer Publications, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, and many other national and local publications. For more information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to get access to other publications by Ms. Stamer see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.
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