A settlement announced May 16, 2013 reminds U.S. housing and other businesses of their growing exposure to disability discrimination claims.
Justice Department Nails Architects & Engineers For Disability Discrimination
On May 16, 2013, the Justice Department announced a $865,000 settlement with a group of nine architects and civil engineers involved in the design and construction of multifamily housing complexes in Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee.
The settlement resolves a lawsuit where the Justice Department charged that nine multifamily housing complexes with more than 800 units covered by the Fair Housing Act’s and Americans With Disabilities Act’s accessibility requirements were designed and built without required accessible features.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires, among other things, that public accommodations comply with specific requirements related to architectural standards to ensure accessible public and common use areas.
Under the settlement with Stephen G. Hill, Pickering Firm Inc. a/k/a Pickering Inc.; Larry Singleton d/b/a Singleton Hollomon Architects, H D Lang And Associates Inc.; Richard A. Barron, Architect, Shows, Dearman & Waits Inc.; Canizaro Cawthon Davis f/k/a Canizaro Trigiani Architects; Evans-Graves Engineers Inc. and J.V. Burkes & Associates Inc. the group of nine architects and civil engineers will pay a total of $865,000 to make the complexes for which they were responsible accessible to persons with disabilities. They will also pay $60,000 to compensate aggrieved persons harmed by the inaccessible housing alleged in the government’s lawsuit. The settlement also requires these defendants to undergo training on the Fair Housing Act and to provide periodic reports to the government.
A lawsuit against the the developer, builder or former owners of these properties, who are alleged to have violated not only the Fair Housing Act, but also the Americans with Disabilities Act, as not settled and continues.
The Justice Department’s announcement of the settlement warns others against engaging in similar discrimination. “Persons with disabilities are entitled to equal access to housing under the Fair Housing Act,” said Eric Halperin, Senior Counsel and Special Counsel for Fair Lending in the Civil Rights Division. “This settlement makes clear that the department takes seriously the accessibility requirements for multifamily housing.”
Disability Discrimination Enforcement Rising Against Housing & Other U.S. Businesses
Today’s settlement is the latest in a growing series of settlements and judgments obtained by the Justice Department against housing and other businesses for disability discrimination resulting from the heightened enforcement emphasis placed upon disability discrimination laws by the Obama Administration. Businesses and other organizations should heed the warnings these and other prosecutions provide and 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 ensure 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.
For Help Or More Information
If you need assistance in auditing or assessing, updating or defending your organization’s compliance, risk manage or other internal controls practices or actions, 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 employers and other management; 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, reengineering, 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 additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.
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