Newsletter: October 19, 2016

Northeast ADA Center News Bulletin: October 19, 2016

Updates from the Northeast ADA Center:

Educating and Empowering: Northeast ADA Center Continues on Cornell Campus

ILR's Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability has been awarded renewed grant funding to operate the Northeast ADA Center during the next five years. The center, located at the Yang-Tan Institute on the Cornell campus, is a neutral resource for companies, educational institutions, disability advocacy organizations and individuals. The Northeast ADA Center's mission is to provide a greater awareness of the Americans with Disabilities Act through information, referrals, resources and trainings focused on the equal opportunities that people with disabilities are guaranteed under federal law. "Our goal is to educate and empower the diverse range of ADA stakeholders throughout our region," said Wendy Strobel, director of the Northeast ADA Center. It covers New York State, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and is one of 10 ADA centers across the United States. "Specifically, we hope to increase their knowledge of the ADA to allow people to make better decisions regarding disability inclusiveness, and to implement the ADA in their own lives, workplaces, businesses and communities." The ADA is a comprehensive civil rights law designed to ensure equal opportunity for people with disabilities in all aspects of society. The ADA addresses disability discrimination in employment, participation in state and local government activities, access to businesses open to the public such as hotels and restaurants, telecommunications access and other areas.
Tied to the Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability mission of advancing knowledge, policies and practices to enhance equal opportunities for all people with disabilities, the Northeast ADA Center provides trainings and technical assistance, and distributes materials on disability-related topics.
"Our objectives are to improve ADA stakeholders' understanding of their rights and responsibilities under the ADA, as well as identify barriers to ADA compliance and develop innovative approaches to address these barriers," Strobel said. "Further, we strive to continuously improve our understanding of ADA stakeholders' needs for and use of our services, systematically enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of our services, and increase the implementation of the ADA throughout our region."

What's New in Our Region:

Online Training from Puerto Rico on Accessible Tourism

With the slogan "Tourism for Everyone", the Puerto Rico Tourism Company joins in the celebration of the International Tourism Month, sponsored by the World Tourism Association. As a result, this year they will have their sixth webinar cycle. It is geared towards the tourism industry in general, and promotes universal accessibility. 

Accessible Tourism is a way of doing tourism that implies a collaboration between the different services in the industry. This gives access to people with special needs (mobility, vision, hearing and intellectual); allowing them to feel more independent with equality and dignity.

One of the webinars focused on people with disabilities is titled: A Plan for an Accessible Tour through the Structures in Old San Juan. The session will be held on Tuesday, October 18, 2016 from 2:00 - 3:00 pm. Karen Rivera and Andy Rivera from the PRHBDS will be the speakers. You can sign up for the event visiting this link:  https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7012594279606574338      

The Supreme Court of Puerto Rico Authorizes Damage Claims in Special Education Cases

Those who have been students of the special education program in Puerto Rico since 1980, and did not receive the services needed for an appropriate education; their parents or legal guardians have until October 31, 2016 to file a claim for the damages suffered due to the noncompliance of the Department of Education. This is a result of a decision from the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico, as part of the procedures of a class-action suit presented in 1980 by the parents of special education children, Rosa Lydia Velez v. DE.  The claimants have to comply with the requirements established in an edict authorized by the Court. For more information, visit: www.pleitodeclase.org.

What's New in the Rest of the Country:

Up to Half of People Killed by Police Have Disabilities

People with mental disabilities represent a large demographic of people killed by police. The lack of training for police officers to effectively communicate and interact with people with disabilities has contributed to this large percentage of deaths. The social stigma about talking about mental disorders has exacerbated this issue because it prevents police from learning how to assess these risks more appropriately. To read more go to: http://www.teenvogue.com/story/half-of-people-killed-by-police-have-disabilities

EEOC Issues Final Enforcement Guidance on Retaliation and Related Issues

When an employee files a retaliation claim there are different standards to analyze than if the employee had filed a discrimination claim. Retaliation is when an employer takes action against an employee for taking part in a protected activity. In a retaliation claim, evidence against the employer could be anything that affects a normal person's engagement in a protected activity. For a discrimination claim, evidence against an employer must be much more specific and has to do with creating a hostile work environment.  To read more about EEOC guidance on retaliation go to: http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/eeoc-issues-final-enforcement-guidance-17492/

Ruling Is Mixed Bag for EEOC's Effort to Rein in Wellness Programs

A federal district court ruled partially in favor of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on Sept. 19 in EEOC v. Orion Energy Systems Inc., a disability discrimination case involving an employer's wellness program. At one firm employees were given the choice to either complete medical exams that were part of the employee's wellness programs or pay the 100 percent of their premiums. This firm was sued but a federal district court ruled in favor of the employer. Because the firm did not force employees to complete the medical exams and only offered an incentive, the court found the employee's decision voluntary.  The court did allow that in moving forward, voluntary programs only provide a maximum financial incentive of thirty percent.  To read more about this go to: https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/orion-eeoc-wellness-ruling.aspx

An Employee with Diabetes Gets Fired Over a $1.69 Drink and Dollar General Must Now Pay Her $277,656.

The EEOC settled a lawsuit where an employee was fired over management of her diabetes while on the job. The EEOC cites that companies need to train their employees how to better handle requirements of the American with Disabilities Act.  The employee with diabetes was notified that she could not have juice near her workplace. The employee drank an orange juice from the store after fearing a low sugar attack, and was fired over the company's "grazing" policy. The EEOC contends that his would not have happened if the basics of ADA were taught better to employees.  To read more go to: https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/orion-eeoc-wellness-ruling.aspx

U.S. Backs Consent Decree for 30 Hop Restaurant after Allegations of Failing to Meet ADA Standards

The U.S. Department of Justice has announced that 30 Hop restaurant and bar in Coralville, Iowa, will enter a proposed consent decree to resolve allegations of violating the new construction requirements of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It did not allow access for people with disabilities to the rooftop patio or lower level. The decree says 30 Hop will work to make its facility comply with the ADA Standards for Accessible Design by, among other things, adding an elevator between the ground floor and rooftop patio. The restaurant also will pay a $17,500 civil penalty.  To read more go to: http://legalnewsline.com/stories/511012681-u-s-backs-consent-decree-for-30-hop-restaurant-after-allegations-of-failing-to-meet-ada-standards

Jeff Flake to Introduce Bill that Proposes to "Fix" ADA Lawsuit Problems

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake is planning to introduce a bill in Congress that would change the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The Senator wants to introduce a bill that will pause any ADA litigation for 120 days and give the business owners a chance to rectify the situation before needlessly bombarding them with expensive lawsuits. He contends that this will help small businesses by giving them time to adapt to ADA requirements in a much less hostile way than lawsuits.  To read more go to: http://www.bizjournals.com/phoenix/news/2016/09/29/jeff-flake-introducing-bill-that-proposes-to-fix.html

Opportunities for You!

Hot Topics in Reasonable Accommodation-Free Webinar

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

2:00 PM EDT - 3:30 PM EDT

This webinar, presented by Jeanne Goldberg, Senior Attorney Advisor in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), will review court decisions issued in 2015-16 raising new reasonable accommodation issues and highlighting examples of employer pitfalls and best practices for ADA compliance.  You must register by October 26, 2016

To register got to: http://events.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=zc9ug6cab&oeidk=a07ed8qm43x.

Special Spotlight:  

Shhh! America's most common workplace injury is hearing loss

Around 22 million workers deal with dangerous levels of sound making hearing loss the most common workplace injury. Hearing loss can be debilitating and cause isolation from society as well as stress and anxiety. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is the most common work-related injury with approximately 22 million workers exposed annually to hazardous levels of occupational noise. Workers in the mining sector, followed by those in construction and manufacturing, are most likely to suffer from hearing impairment. An estimated $242 million is spent on worker's compensation annually for hearing loss disability, according to the Department of Labor.  To read more go to:

http://www.virginislandsdailynews.com/ap/shhh-america-s-most-common-workplace-injury-is-hearing-loss/article_e80226eb-0211-5eb0-9129-42d42698fdb3.html