The National Association of the Deaf had sued Netflix under the Americans with Disabilities Act because it claimed that the Internet was a place of public accommodation and close captioning was necessary to insure that deaf individuals had equal access to the services. The consent decree entered between the parties provides that in addition to paying counsel and monitoring fees in the amount of $795,000, Netflix will agree to insure that all of its streaming movies are close captioned by 2014. 


Although this happens to be a very large settlement, which is slightly unusual in cases of this kind, any employer who operates a place of public accommodation should be concerned about complying with the accessibility requirements set forth in Title III of the ADA.


There are plaintiffs, like the ones in the Netflix case who are advocacy organizations, but there are probably more who are what I would term "professional plaintiffs."  These individuals simply go to establishments who do not have the proper access and file suit. 


I had a client who got sued by one of these professional plaintiffs who had filed 90 ADA lawsuits against a variety of establishments prior to the one I was defending. Those cases are largely filed by the same attorney and usually settle relatively quickly for an agreement to make repairs and pay counsel fees.  When you figure that settlements can range in the neighborhood of $5000 to $20,000 for case where very little legal work is involved, you can see what a lucrative business this is for both the attorneys and the plaintiffs.


The bottom line is employers need to insure that they are complying with all of the accessibility requirements which include by way of example, permitting the use of service animals. (See our 3/29/12 post "So a Man With a Horse Walks into a Bar."  The federal government has issued a very detailed technical compliance manual that can provide some guidance, but employers are also advised to consult with qualified architects and counsel to insure compliance.