South Carolina Lawyer
Vol. 12, No. 4, Pg. 14.
Title III of the ADA: More than an Employment Statute
14Title III of the ADA: More than an Employment StatuteBy Molly HughesJuly 26, 2000, marked the tenth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, which was enacted to recognize and protect the civil rights of people with disabilities. To commemorate the anniversary, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued on July 27 two major guidances and a status report addressing genetic discrimination in the federal workplace, disability-related inquiries and medical exams, and EEOC enforcement of the ADA's employment provisions. These documents deal with employment related issues under Title I of the ADA, which tends to receive the most attention in our legal system and by the general public. Indeed, many people view the ADA as an employment statute.
However, the ADA is much more comprehensive and addresses physical access for the disabled to public programs and activities such as state and local government activities (Title II) and to private facilities or public accommodations (Title III). 28 C.F.R. § 36.101-36.103; ADA Title III Technical Assistance Manual, III-1.100. The purpose of Titles II and III is to ensure that people with disabilities have access to buildings, goods and services provided by public and private entities.
16Title III has recently received much publicity in part as the result of a lawsuit filed against Clint Eastwood's Mission Ranch Hotel in Carmel, Ca. The hotel was sued by a disabled individual for alleged violations of Title III and a similar California law because various doors and bathrooms at the historic 32-room hotel and restaurant were allegedly not accessible to her.
On September 29, a jury reached a verdict in the case determining there were two minor violations at the hotel-not enough signs to the restroom and no ramp access to the hotel office. The purpose of this article is to highlight some of the provisions of Title III and some of the accessibility issues with which private entities, such as the Mission Ranch Hotel, are faced under Title III.
THE GENERAL RULE
The overriding prohibition of Title III is that no individual "shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation." 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a); 28 C.F.R. § 36.201.
Title III of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12181-12213, covers (1) places of public accommodation; (2) commercial facilities; and (3) examinations and courses related to applications, licensing, certification or credentialing for secondary and postsecondary education, professional or trade purposes. 28 C.F.R. § 36.102. This article only highlights certain issues with respect to places of public accommodation. The Department of Justice has established detailed regulations defining a "public accommodation" and what constitutes discrimination on their part. See 28 C.F.R Part 36 and 49 C.F.R. Parts 27,37 and 38 (setting forth the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG), which are enforced by the Departments of Justice and Transportation.)
A public accommodation is a facility whose operations "affect commerce" and which fall within at least one of 12 categories including:
Places of lodging;
Establishments serving food or drink;
Places of exhibition or entertainment;
Places of public gathering;
Sales or rental establishments;
Service establishments such as a law office;
Stations used for specified public transportation;
Places of public display such as a museum or library;
Parks or zoos;
Places of education including nurseries;
Homeless shelters or other social service center establishment;
Places of exercise or recreation such as a gymnasium, health spa, or bowling alley.
42 U.S.C. § 12181(7); 28 C.F.R. § 36.104; ADA Title III Technical Assistance Manual 111-1.2000. Therefore, hotels, bars, restaurants, movie theaters, grocery stores and private schools are all affected by Title III.
However, the categories listed simply provide illustrations of the facilities covered and, in actuality, encompass a much wider range than the examples given. For example, even private Web sites on the Internet maybe considered public accommodations covered by the ADA. See Walter Olson, Statement to House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Courts and the Constitution, "The ADA and its application to World Wide Web sites" (February 9, 2000), National...