Court Concludes That A Business’s Website Does Not Need To Comply With The ADA

New,Technologies,,A,Side,View,Of,An,Open,Laptop,,MillennialsWe have been blogging for more than five years about the rising litigation threat over website accessibility, and the surrounding confusion about what type of compliance, if any, is required.  In our initial blog post on this topic in January 2016, we stated that the question as to whether a business’s website and mobile app needed to be accessible with the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) had no definitive answer at that time because (i) although Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals on the basis of disability with regard to their participation and equal enjoyment in places of public accommodation, the statute did not explicitly define whether a place of public accommodation must be a physical place or facility; (ii) there were no regulations from the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) (the federal agency that enforces Title III of the ADA) regarding website accessibility and without applicable regulations, it was unclear how a court would address a lawsuit over website accessibility; and (iii) adding to this uncertainty, the DOJ had emphasized that, despite the lack of regulations, businesses should make websites accessible to the disabled, and relied on a set of guidelines called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (“WCAG”).

Five years later, this question still has no definitive answer.  And, the DOJ still has yet to promulgate regulations regarding businesses’ obligations to make websites accessible to individuals with visual and hearing impairments.  In April, however, an extremely positive development occurred for businesses when, in the matter of Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores Inc., the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers Florida, Georgia, and Alabama) held that websites are NOT places of public accommodation and thus are NOT covered by Title III of the ADA.

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Attorney Spotlight – Meet Eric Conn!

Eric J. Conn is a founding partner of Conn Maciel Carey and Chair of the firm’s national OSHA • Workplace Safety Practice Group. For more than twenty years now, Eric’s practice has focused exclusively on issues involving occupational safety and health law.

Before launching his own OSHA Practice, Eric practiced for more than a decade alongside the former first General Counsel of the OSH Review Commission. Eric then became Head of an OSHA practice at a large employment law firm that was honored as the “Occupational Health & Safety Law Firm of the Year” by Corporate INTL Magazine in 2014.

Mr. Conn is a popular speaker on OSHA topics, including as the director of Conn Maciel Carey’s annual OSHA Webinar Series, and he regularly keynotes trade group and industry conferences.  He is also the curator of the firm’s award-winning OSHA Blog, the OSHA Defense Report, and he is often quoted as a leader in the field in trade publications.

Eric and his team of OSHA-specialist attorneys develop safety and health regulatory strategies for employers across all industries with a particular emphasis on:

  • Advising and representing employers through inspections, investigations and enforcement actions involving OSHA and other safety-related agencies
  • Managing the full range of litigation against OSHA
  • Representing employers during U.S. DOJ investigations and prosecutions of alleged OSH Act criminal violations
  • Developing and auditing safety programs and policies
  • Providing workplace safety training and compliance counseling for employers

Get to Know Eric!

Where is your favorite vacation spot?   Continue reading

Status Update: Maryland Essential Workers’ Protection Act

Earlier this month, the Maryland Essential Workers’ Protection Act (“Act”) made it through both chambers by Sine Die and now awaits action by the Governor.  Above all, the bill would require the Maryland Secretary of Labor to establish COVID-19-specific safety regulations, also known as an “Emergency Temporary Standard” (“ETS”), within two weeks after the effective date of the Act.  This may take one of two forms:

  • if the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“Fed OSHA”) has issued an applicable ETS related to COVID–19, that ETS must be adopted (see our previous post regarding the status of Fed OSHA’s COVID-19 ETS rulemaking); or
  • if Fed OSHA has not issued an applicable ETS related to COVID–19, a State ETS must be adopted that:
    1. meets or exceeds the guidance provided in “Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID–19 in the Workplace” published on January 29, 2021, by Fed OSHA; and
    2. complies with certain additional criteria, requiring employers to:
      • notify the Maryland Department of Health within 24 hours after the confirmation of a positive case of COVID–19;
      • notify the Maryland Department of Health within 24 hours after the confirmation of three or more employees at a workplace testing positive for COVID–19 within a 14–day period;
      • post in a location visible to employees at the work site: information regarding COVID–19 symptoms; protocols for an employee’s reaction to experiencing COVID–19 symptoms; the minimum safety standards developed under the regulations; and the process for submitting a complaint to Maryland Occupational Safety and Health; and
      • comply with the prohibitions relating to terminating or discriminating against employees.

Importantly, the bill provides that “[t]his subtitle applies only to essential employers in industries and sectors identified by the Governor or a Federal or State agency as critical to remain in operation during the emergency[,]” where “emergency” is defined as “[a] catastrophic health emergency, as defined [under a certain section of the Public Safety Article], that is the subject of an Executive Proclamation . . . and is related to a communicable disease.”  The bill also offers a two-part definition for “essential employer,” providing that an “essential employer” means a “person that employs an essential worker” and that an “essential worker” means “an individual who: (1) performs a duty or work responsibility during an emergency that cannot be performed remotely or is required to be completed at the work site; and (2) provides services that the essential employer determines to be essential or critical to its operations.”  Essential employers may not “knowingly misclassify an essential worker as an independent contractor or other classification in order to avoid paying an essential worker any benefits due during an emergency . . .”    

Key safety and health requirements for covered employers include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Subject to availability, provide necessary amounts of safety equipment recommended for usage during the emergency at no cost to essential workers.
  • Adopt, maintain, and post written protocols to ensure an essential worker’s access to information regarding the applicable safety standards in effect during the emergency.
  • Provide or implement any other measures or requirements set by the Governor or a Federal or State agency to ensure the general health and safety of essential workers.
  • During an emergency, if an essential worker or any other workers has contracted the communicable disease that is the subject of the emergency at the work site, take proactive steps to minimize the risk of transmission, including informing essential worker that they may have been exposed.
  • Unless an essential workers is able to obtain testing free of charge, if an essential worker’s health insurance coverage or other benefits do not cover the cost of testing for the communicable disease that is the subject of the emergency, during the emergency, pay for testing for the communicable disease.
  • Report all positive test results to the Maryland Department of Health, and, when reporting, include demographic information about the essential worker and redact any personal identifying information to protect the identity of the essential worker.

Additionally, the bill provides that essential workers have the “right to refuse to perform an assigned task under [a certain section of this article and corollary regulations].” 

The bill also sets forth requirements for “public health emergency leave,” defined as “paid leave that an essential employer provides to an essential worker during an emergency as required under [a certain subsection of this section].”  The public health emergency leave section only applies, however, if the Federal or State government provides funding that can be used for public health emergency leave.  Should such funding become available, essential employers must provide an essential worker with public health emergency leave on the date the funding is made available to the essential employer.  The bill sets forth the specific conditions under which public health emergency leave may be taken, as well as the amounts of leave to which covered workers are entitles and documentation requirements. 

With respect to the conditions under which public health emergency leave may be taken, the bill provides that each essential employer must allow an essential worker to use public health emergency leave in relation to an emergency:

  • To isolate without an order to do so because the essential worker: has been diagnosed with the communicable disease that is the subject of the emergency; or is experiencing symptoms associated with the communicable disease that is the subject of the emergency and is awaiting the results of a test to confirm the diagnosis.
  • To seek or obtain a medical diagnosis, preventive care, or treatment because the essential worker is diagnosed with the communicable disease that is the subject of the emergency.
  • To care for a family member who is isolating, without an order to do so, because of a diagnosis of the communicable that is the subject of the emergency.
  • Due to a determination by a public health official or health care professional that the essential worker’s presence at the place of employment or in the community would jeopardize the heath of other individuals because of the essential worker’s exposure to, or exhibited symptoms associated with, the communicable disease that is the subject of the emergency, regardless of whether the essential worker has been diagnosed with the communicable disease.
  • To care for a family member due to a determination by a public health official or health care professional that the family member’s presence at the place of employment or in the community would jeopardize the heath of other individuals because of the family member’s exposure to, or exhibited symptoms associated with, the communicable disease that is the subject of the emergency or due to symptoms exhibited regardless of whether the family member has been diagnosed with the communicable disease.
  • To care for a child or other family member: when the care provider of the family member is unavailable due to the emergency; or if the child’s or family member’s school or place of care has been closed by a Federal, State, or Local public official or at the discretion of the school or place of care due to the emergency, including if the school or place of care is physically closed but providing instruction remotely.

The bill provides a specific definition for “family member,” which includes: biological children, adopted children, foster children, and stepchildren of the essential worker; biological parents, adoptive parents, foster parents, and stepparents of the essential worker or of the essential worker’s spouse; the spouse of the essential worker; biological grandparents, adopted grandparents, foster grandparents, and stepgrandparents of the essential worker; biological grandchildren, adopted grandchildren, foster grandchildren, and stepgrandchildren of the essential worker; biological siblings, adopted siblings, foster siblings, and stepsiblings of the essential worker; among others

If an essential worker believes that an essential employer has committed violations, the bill provides specific methods of recourse for the worker.  It also prohibits employers from discharging or otherwise discriminating against an employee because the employee is an essential worker who files a compliant or exercises a right under certain provisions of the law. 

[Webinar] Withdrawal Liability and Pensions

CaptureOn Wednesday, April 14th at 1:00 P.M. EST, join Mark M. Trapp for a webinar regarding Withdrawal Liability and Pensions.

This webinar will address the significant challenges faced by companies participating in multiemployer plans. Specifically, it will help unionized employers understand and analyze what is often the most critical challenge facing their business – multiemployer pension withdrawal liability. It will also address pension-related provisions of the recently-enacted American Rescue Plan Act.

Participants will learn about the following: Continue reading

Return of California’s COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave

By Andrew J. Sommer and Ashley D. Mitchell

California has just reinstated the COVID-19 specific paid sick leave law that expired at the end of 2020 but this time with a twist.  As we discussed in a blog post last year, California enacted the 2020 COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave law to extend benefits to employees not covered by the paid benefits provision of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).  While the FFCRA’s paid sick leave provision lapsed on December 31, 2020 along with California’s 2020 COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave law, California has just passed, effective March 29, 2021, the 2021 COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave law extending benefits again with significantly expanded eligibility.

Eligibility Requirements

The 2021 COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave law requires all California employers with more than 25 employees to provide COVID-19 related paid sick leave (up to 80 hours) to employees who cannot work or telework due to the reasons discussed below.  This paid leave is in addition to any payment that was provided under the previous COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave law expiring on December 31, 2020.  The 2021 COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave law does not apply to independent contractors, unlike the previous law, and expands upon the eligibility criteria.  The California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) has issued 2021 COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave FAQs offering detailed guidance on this new law.

Covered employees are now eligible under the 2021 COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave law if they are unable to work or telework due to any of the following reasons: 

  • The covered employee is subject to a quarantine or isolation period related to COVID-19, as defined by an order or guidelines of the State Department of Public Health, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or a local health officer who has jurisdiction over the workplace
  • The covered employee has been advised by a healthcare provider to quarantine due to COVID-19, or is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking a medical diagnosis
  • The covered employee is caring for a family member (as defined) who is either subject to a quarantine or isolation period or has been advised by a healthcare provider to quarantine due to COVID-19
  • The covered employee is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19 on the premises
  • The covered employee is attending a vaccine appointment or cannot work or telework due to vaccine-related symptoms
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Employment Law Update in D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and Illinois [Webinar Recording]

On March 24th, Daniel C. Deacon and Ashley D. Mitchell presented a webinar regarding an Employment Law Update in D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and Illinois.

CaptureThe District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia have enacted or are considering a host of changes that employers need to keep track of in 2021, such as revisions to discrimination laws, wage and hour laws, labor laws, and workplace safety and health regulations.

Illinois employers should be aware of an already existing minimum wage increase that takes effect in 2021, and there are a host of laws that took effect at various points in 2020. Indeed, in 2020, employers were faced with an expanded Illinois Human Rights Act that applies beyond the physical workplace, covers non-employee contractors and protects against discrimination based on perceived (in addition to actual) protected status. There were also special new rules enacted that apply to restaurants, bars and coffee shops, as well as disclosure requirements that will necessitate notifying the Department of Human Rights of adverse judgments in employment discrimination or harassment matters. Finally, the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act was amended and the signed “trailer bill” has clarified what employers should do if they wish to prohibit the use of marijuana as part of their workplace drug and alcohol policy.

Participants in this webinar learned: Continue reading

Employment Law Update in D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and Illinois [Webinar]

On Wednesday, March 24th at 1:00 P.M. EST, join Daniel C. Deacon and Ashley D. Mitchell for a webinar regarding an Employment Law Update in D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and Illinois.

CaptureThe District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia have enacted or are considering a host of changes that employers need to keep track of in 2021, such as revisions to discrimination laws, wage and hour laws, labor laws, and workplace safety and health regulations.

Illinois employers should be aware of an already existing minimum wage increase that takes effect in 2021, and there are a host of laws that took effect at various points in 2020. Indeed, in 2020, employers were faced with an expanded Illinois Human Rights Act that applies beyond the physical workplace, covers non-employee contractors and protects against discrimination based on perceived (in addition to actual) protected status. There were also special new rules enacted that apply to restaurants, bars and coffee shops, as well as disclosure requirements that will necessitate notifying the Department of Human Rights of adverse judgments in employment discrimination or harassment matters. Finally, the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act was amended and the signed “trailer bill” has clarified what employers should do if they wish to prohibit the use of marijuana as part of their workplace drug and alcohol policy.

Participants in this webinar will learn: Continue reading

California Supreme Court Deals Blow to Employers, Recognizing a Rebuttable Presumption of Meal Period Violation Based on Time Records Alone and Prohibiting Rounded Time Punches

shutterstock_litigationThe California Supreme Court has largely been silent on meal period questions since its seminal decision in Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court (2012) 53 Cal.4th 1004 (Brinker), clarifying that an employer satisfies its obligation to provide meal periods where it “relieves its employees of all duty, relinquishes control over their activities and permits them a reasonable opportunity to take an uninterrupted 30-minute break, and does not impede or discourage employees from doing so….”  Brinker made clear that an employer is not obligated to police meal breaks and ensure no work is performed during these breaks.  Despite this silver lining for employers, litigation has proliferated post Brinker in the form of class actions seeking premium pay – one hour’s pay at the employee’s regular rate of compensation for each workday a meal period is not provided – as well as collective actions under the Private Attorneys Generals Act (PAGA) pursuing penalties for alleged meal period violations.

While the Brinker decision can be parsed to support an employer’s or employee’s legal position, the Supreme Court has just issued a notable class action decision in Donohue v. AMN Services, LLC (Donohue) dealing a resounding blow to employers by, for the first time, prohibiting rounding of time punches for meal periods and creating a presumption of a meal period violation based on the employer’s time records.

In that case, the employer, AMN Services, maintained policies and procedures for Continue reading

Attorney Spotlight – Meet Kara Maciel!

Kara ACFKara Maciel is a founding Partner of Conn Maciel Carey and Chair of the firm’s national labor & employment practice group

Ms. Maciel works to create workplace solutions for her clients.  She counsels clients on issues related to ADA accessibility requirements, wage hour compliance, prevention of harassment and discrimination, effective employment policies and procedures, and developing a compliant employee handbook. She also defends employers in litigation at both the federal and state levels.  For unionized and non-unionized companies, Ms. Maciel provides advice and counsel regarding the employer’s rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

Kara is an avid traveler (pre-pandemic) and foodie, so it makes perfect sense that she focuses much of her practice on issues facing companies in the hospitality industry (including hotel owners and managers, resorts, restaurants, and country clubs); retail; grocery; food distributors; and non-profit sectors.

Get to Know Kara!

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We are Celebrating International Women’s Day with our #ChooseToChallenge!

Female,Diverse,Faces,Of,Different,Ethnicity,Seamless,Pattern.,Women,EmpowermentToday is International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the historical, cultural, and political achievements of women. To honor this day, we reflect on the significant progress made in gender equality and recognize the adversity that women continue to push through to attain a more inclusive world.  Just this year, Kamala Harris shattered the glass ceiling by not only becoming the first female U.S. Vice President, but the first Black, and South Asian-American U.S. Vice President.  

This significant event in recent history showcases the many women who have paved the way.  Women such as Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to Congress; Eleanor Roosevelt, the first U.S. delegate to the United Nations; and, of course, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the second female and the first Jewish female Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.  As we already know, we experienced the loss of Justice Ginsberg just last year, but the impact she made as a pioneer who fought for women’s rights, and a leading voice for civil rights and liberties influences the gender equality movement to this day.

What do you #choosetochallenge?

Picture1The theme for International Women’s Day 2021 is #choosetochallenge.  This initiative is meant to drive actions that will create the gender-equal society we all deserve.  We must challenge ourselves to take accountability for our own thoughts and actions, and be the change we want to see in the world. Check out what Conn Maciel Carey’s Attorneys and Staff #choosetochallenge! Continue reading