Editor's Letter

Feb. 23, 2017

A Tale of Two ADA Violators.

It’s been 27 years since President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law. If your facility has never been found in violation over that period, it doesn’t mean that it won’t.  

While researching some ADA topics recently, I discovered that information on individual complaints and settlements of Title III (those pertaining to facilities) violations are available
at www.ada.gov. In particular, I found complete settlement agreements for two restaurants I know in the city where I live (Cedar Rapids, IA). One is a chain steakhouse that has been operating in the same building since 1993. The other is a popular local grill that, I would guess, has been around much longer.

The complaints filed against both businesses were similar – barriers at entrances and inadequate accessibility to freestanding tables and booths in dining areas. Both also had shortcomings in the washrooms, including clearances, hardware and insulation of supply pipes and drain tubes.

Because both businesses agreed to correct the violations in their buidings, the settlement notes that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) will not pursue litigation. However, the businesses are required to submit detailed written reports (photographs, plans, work orders, purchase receipts, etc.) at six- and twelve-month intervals to the DOJ. The agreements are in effect for three years or until all remedial actions are completed. If either business fails to remedy its noncompliance, each will be subject to a civil penalty of not less than $10,000. (The maximum civil penalty for a first violation is currently $75,000; the maximum for a subsequent violation is $150,000. The DOJ is authorized to adjust the maximums for inflation.)

The settlements for both buildings are dated the first week of November 2016. I pass by the grill often and it is open for business and, I assume, in the process of meeting compliance. The steakhouse, however, closed its doors for good before Thanskgiving. A local news source suggested that the ADA settlement was a factor in its closing, although the restaurant did not comment.

The long arm of the ADA remains, however. Any “successors in interest” of the steakhouse will be bound by the same agreement and the restaurant is required to notify such successors of the settlement and the duties it imposes on them.

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