Hello and welcome to the ADA Anniversary 25 years later conference call. At this time all participants are in a listen-only mode later we will conduct a question and answer session instructions will follow at that time and now I would like to introduce your host for today's call, Robin Jones, you may begin.
Hello welcome to the ADA Audio Conference Series. This is a program that's sponsored by the ADA National Network and we welcome you to this particular session as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ADA. We've been holding this anniversary session for the last 15 years marking each year as we have progressed with the implementation of ADA and we have been privileged to have presenters from the U.S. Department of Justice and Equal Opportunity Commission join us each year so we're looking forward to this particular session. As we said we are going to run a through mechanical things just to make sure everybody new to the webinar platform knows what to expect today if you happen to be on the webinar platform for those of you on the phone the operator will be giving you queues later on in the session as to how go about asking questions so those are the webinar platforms just a -- platform just a few comments here. So audio is being broadcast through your computer. If you're using your computer make sure your speakers are turned on or if you're using a headset make sure it's plugged in you can control the audio through the audio and video panel by using the slide bars to increase your volume if you are having problems with your audio quality use the audio wizard at the top which is the little blue microphone with a red on it in the audio and video panel go through that and it should help you adjust any problems you are having. Your mobile phones and Android devices you can listen through various apps if you downloaded them in advance we do caution you the accessibility of these apps is limited if you're using any type of assistive technology we do have real-time captioning available the caption screen can be accessed by using the CC icon that's available in the audio and video panel once you select it you can resize the captioning window change your font size as well as save the transcript. We will be taking questions as I said from those of you in the webinar platform by submitting them to the chat area if you're connected from a mobile phone you can use a chat area within the device if you're listening by the phone as I said the operator will give you instructions when it's time to do that you also have the opportunity to emailing your questions to webinars@ADA-AUDIO.org all questions will be repeated to the presenters to make sure they are captured in the recording as well as by the captioner. We don't really have any handout or PowerPoint presentation but if you do want to you can resize the whiteboard area where the PowerPoint will be shown and adjust whatever size you want the default fit page but you can use the drop-down menu it will only change the view of you and not others you can resize the position of any of the chat Windows by stretching them with your mouse or detaching them using the little icon which I call a bunch of lines of paper in the upper right hand corner of each panel. If you have technical difficulties send a private message to Great Lakes ADA it's in the tab under the participants list or email at webinars@ADA-audio.org or call the office at 877-232-1990 so it is my pleasure to introduce our presenters today. We have Kathleen Wolf or Katie Wolf as she goes by who is a special litigation counsel with the disability rights section with the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice. We also have joining us Sally Conway who is a deputy chief of the disability rights section in the civil rights division again of the U.S. Department of Justice and from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission we have Sharon Rennert who serves as the senior attorney advisor in ADA and GINA Division. So we're thrilled to have them be joining us and at this time I'm going to go ahead and turn the microphone over to Sharon Rennert who will begin with a little bit of an update in the discussion about the activities and goings on of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Go ahead Sharon.
Thank you very much Robin and hello to everybody out there. So glad that you could join us today and it seems like a good idea the 25th anniversary, upcoming anniversary, to take advantage to kind of both look back and look ahead a little bit. And to see where we've been and where we're going at the EEOC. So let me start by contrasting some statistics, not many statistics, from the administrative enforcement arm of the EEOC. This is where people who believe they have been discriminated against, they file their charges, their complaints of discrimination. In the first full year that we were enforcing the employment provisions of the ADA, back in Fiscal Year 1993, EEOC received just under -- rather just a little over 15,000 ADA charges. 15,000. And in that initial year, we obtained over $15 million on behalf of about 1800 people with disabilities. Who had discrimination. In the most recent full year that we have data, Fiscal Year 2014, we received over 25,000 ADA charges. And obtained over $95 million in relief for approximately 5,000 people. In terms of receiving 25,000 charges, that's been the number for the last five years. Ever since the enactment of the ADA Amendments Act. With the passage of that law, when it went into effect, there was a significant increase in the number of charges coming into the EEOC. And we don't think that was necessarily surprising. That once Congress made clear how broad the definition of disability should be, that a lot of people who were discouraged prior to the ADA Amendments Act from filing a charge because they felt or knew that it wouldn't go very far, that their condition would not be found to be a disability under the law. This gave them new hope. And reason to come back to EEOC. So we have been averaging 25,000 charges a year now with ADA allegations. In terms of our litigation program, going back to the first year of enforcement of the ADA, we have filed over 1100 ADA lawsuits. And obtained about $140 million in relief for victims of discrimination. Just as we had more charges coming in thanks to the ADA Amendments Act, so, too, have our litigation -- has our litigation gone up in terms of ADA. Going back to the past four years, we have filed over 200 ADA lawsuits. For the last Fiscal Year 2014, which we have data, we filed 46 ADA lawsuits for that year. And that represented about one-third of all the lawsuits filed that law by the EEOC. So definitely ADA is taking its place as a significant portion of EEOC's litigation efforts. During that same four-year period, we obtained about $52 million in relief through our ADA litigation.
We do try to be strategic in the lawsuits we bring. Because we have limited resources. So we want to make each and every lawsuit count. And so therefore, one of the things we look at is what type of discrimination. What is the practice that we're going after? And really if you look at the lawsuits we file, they deal with every aspect of the employment provisions. And when we prevail in a lawsuit, which either may be taking it to a jury or to the court. But a lot -- in fact most lawsuits will ultimately settle without a verdict. But when you put it all together in terms of what kinds of practices EEOC has been able to change, it's everything from having employers implement procedures for how they will handle reasonable accommodation requests. Removal of pre-offer medical inquiries. Changes in leave and attendance policies to recognize that these policies may need to be modified for specific employees as a form of reasonable accommodation. Litigation has also resulted in tens of thousands of HR staff, supervisors and managers receiving in-depth ADA training to make sure that they both understand and comply with the employment provisions of the ADA.Our lawsuits also have been brought in all sectors and segments of the workforce including manufacturing, supply, energy, retail, agriculture and farming, service and hospitality, cleaning, facilities management, medical, health and home care and construction industry. EEOC wants to make it very clear that there's no segment of the economy or the workforce that's exempt from these ADA provisions. And that people with disabilities obviously work in all of these sectors so we want our litigation to reflect that. It's also been very important to EEOC since the enactment of the ADA Amendments Act to make sure that our litigation reflects the broad range of disabilities that are covered. And just to kind of give a snapshot in terms of recent lawsuits, they have involved various types of cancer, emphysema, neuropathy, epilepsy, diabetes, dyslexia, coronary artery disease, narcolepsy, depression, anxiety disorder, HIV, PTSD. Multiple sclerosis, dwarfism,herniated discs and other back conditions, blindness and deafness. So again, we really want the message out there of how broad the definition is. A lot of our litigation is to really get some good case law on how broad the ADA Amendments Act made the definition of disability. And that trend of seeing a very broad definition of disability continues. Cohorts overwhelmingly understand what Congress did. And their decisions are reinforcing what Congress did. In recognizing that it is a very broad definition. So we're very pleased to see that.
To give you just a snapshot of some recent cases to sort of show you various kinds of things that EEOC is focused on with litigation, from the last year or two, EEOC's lawsuit against hill country farms, a case brought on behalf of 32 workers with intellectual disabilities, a lot of media attention was given to this case. Because these gentlemen were subjected to severe discrimination over many years. It included nonpayment of wages, disparate treatment and significant verbal and physical harassment. It resulted in a jury award of $240 million in damages. The largest award ever given in an EEOC case. Now of course, the statutory cap cut that down considerably. But it does signal how the jury viewed what the employer did. Another case we brought against Verizon Maryland, it was a class case on behalf of employees who were denied reasonable accommodation who were disciplined and/or fired because the company refused to make any exceptions to its no fault attendance policy. Basically anybody who needed leave beyond what Verizon Maryland's policy allowed, that was it. There was no consideration of any additional leave or any other accommodations to help people return to work. We settled the case for $20 million. That's the largest disability discrimination settlement in a single lawsuit. We had a lawsuit against United Airlines on the issue of reassignment. And what was significant there is the 7th circuit Court of Appeals where the case ended up, in that case the 7th circuit reconsidered a decision from years earlier in which the court had really narrowed the reach of reassignment as a reasonable accommodation. And the 7th circuit in this United Airlines case reexamined their original position and said you know what basically we were wrong. So they threw out the earlier decision the principle in the earlier decision and came into line with pretty much every other circuit court in the country recognizing that reassignment includes making job changes. And not requiring an employee to compete for the job. But rather as long as somebody is qualified for the vacant position, then as a reasonable accommodation reassignment must be made. Ultimately we settled with United Airlines for over a million dollars in that case. As much as we all think it's fairly clear in the ADA that employers need to be careful when making medical inquiries, that still continues to be an issue. And we have a couple of cases that we have brought because we don't want to overlook the significance of where employers are either prohibited or limited from making medical inquiries. We filed a lawsuit against Grain Health Care Company because we found they were asking unlawful pre-offer medical questions. And the Court agreed with us that those were illegal inquiries because it was the pre-offer period. But also significantly the Court went on to say that it was irrelevant that the company went ahead and hired some of those people. That it was not a defense to say, but, well we may have asked a pre-offer question we shouldn't. But we went on and we hired the person sort of like no harm no foul. And the Court said, no, there is a lot of harm. Even when people ultimately are hired. And that could still warrant punitive damages. Just for asking those questions. Another lawsuit, PAM transportation, in that one, EEOC alleged the company subjected its truck drivers to overly broad medical inquiries. So this is directed at current employees. And while yes medical inquiries are permitted, they have to meet the ADA's legal standard of being job related and consistent with business necessity. The settlement in that case involved the company agreeing to abide by the ADA Standard. That they will limit their medical inquiries of truck drivers to those that meet the business necessity standard and are not as wide ranging as what they had been doing.
So a quick snapshot of our litigation program. Now, EEOC continues to examine when there may be a need to change the ADA regulations. And currently as many of you I hope know, we have pending proposed regulations that address the interplay between the Affordable Care Act and the ADA when it comes to employer sponsored wellness programs. The comment period for those -- for the proposed regulations closed a few weeks ago. We received over 340 comments from interested parties from employers, from people with disabilities, disability organizations, employer organizations, EEOC is currently reviewing all of those comments in order to publish a final regulation. I don't have a due date on that. You'll have to kind of stay tuned.The other thing EEOC is preparing to do is issue proposed regulations. We hope soon. Under GINA the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act and how that impacts with Affordable Care Act regarding wellness programs. Really ADA and GINA kind of go together here. So we will be proposing to modify the GINA regulations. So watch out for that. While our enforcement activities for the ADA are incredibly important, from the beginning EEOC has also placed great emphasis on education outreach and technical assistance. We think it's really important to provide as much assistance as we can to all the people impacted by the ADA. To employers and individuals with disabilities, labor unions, vocational rehabilitation agencies, et cetera, to really understand the nitty-gritty of what the ADA employment provisions require. And so from the beginning we have really placed an emphasis on reaching people as much as we can through all kinds of means and obviously with the development of technology, that's helped our efforts. But some of it is kind of old-fashioned. We still handle thousands of phone calls. And now email inquiries, as well. From all sorts of interested parties. As they confront various ADA issues. It's what I like to refer to as sort of real-time assistance. You know here is the person with a disability. How do I go about requesting accommodation or here is what happened when I did request it. Or an employer contacting us. How do we handle a request for accommodation? Or we have done the following things and we're not sure where we go from here.
And it's just a very wide range of issues that come up. And this is something that we put a lot of emphasis on helping folks. So that hopefully we don't have their situations wind up in our enforcement activities.
We also do all kinds of training programs, webinars like the one you are attending today, and we try to partner where we can with other organizations. So that we can really make it count. And reach an even wider audience. So we have been very pleased and privileged to work with the ADA centers all of these years. To date the EEOC has published over 35 guidance’s, Q&A’s, fact sheets and other documents for both the private sector and for Federal agencies on the ADA and the sister law, the Rehabilitation Act. All of which is on our Web site. And in fact, the EEOC's Web site I hope either later today or I've been told no later than tomorrow there will be on the EEOC homepage a special page devoted to the 25th anniversary of the ADA. All kinds of links. Including to all of our latest statistics and data to all of those publications I just mentioned. So a good place to kind of get that information. In terms of before I hand it over to my DOJ colleagues in just a moment, where are we going from here? And the EEOC is still committed to focusing on making it clear how broadly the ADA does cover people with disabilities. The wide range of disabilities. One of -- let me just point out one example. And that would be pregnancy related disabilities. This has been a focus for the EEOC now for a couple of years. Our pregnancy guidance has a whole section devoted to the ADA. That it's not just about sex discrimination. But where you have pregnancy related disabilities, as well. That implicates the ADA and the need for employers to be cognizant of that and of course the big issue that comes up is going to be reasonable accommodation. And so the EEOC's guidance really focuses on what are pregnancy related disabilities. And many of the types of reasonable accommodations that those disabilities necessitate. We continue to put emphasis on our litigation program and especially looking at class action lawsuits. Where we really see that it's not just an individual but where it really is impacting either people with a specific disability or a range of disabilities. And many of the cases we have taken dealing with leave or time and attendance issues are good examples of us really looking at kind of systemic problems that employers may be having here that really implicate people with a broad range of disabilities. So let me stop there. So that I can hand it over to my colleagues at the Justice Department.
Thank you, Sharon. This is Sally and I'm here with Katie Wolfe from DOJ. The first thing I wanted to say was that I just -- I can't thank the ADA network enough for all of their work they have done for so, so many years. That it's just been incredible. And we have had here at DOJ just a wonderful relationship with them. I've been here coming up onto 22 years. And since I got here, I've been involved with the centers. And it's so nice to work with them. They have folks on the ground. We rely so heavily on the work, the eyes and the ears that all of these -- the regional centers have. And all of their state affiliates. And I just want to say while we're looking at the 25th anniversary of the ADA, which is a huge milestone, I just really want to congratulate the long and very rich history of working to ensure that folks with disabilities and covered entities have access to the information that they need. And every once in a while I think it's nice to be able to stop and for you guys also pat yourselves on the back. Because you have done a wonderful job. I love working with you. So I just wanted to be sure to say that up front before I forgot. Not that I maybe would have forgotten but I just wanted to get in on Katie's time is really what I did. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to turn this over to Katie. And she's going to talk a little bit about some of our enforcement work and in some of our areas. And I'll come back in toward the end and just talk a little bit about our new materials. Because with all of that we really can't wait to get to the questions and answers so I'm going to turn this over to my buddy, Katie.
Hi, everyone. So I love working with you, too.(Chuckles).
I'm going to just -- I'm sure that most people on the phone are familiar with our Web site. Are on our ADA email blast. So I'm just going to give a couple of highlights of our more recent matters. And again, you know I think right now at this time in our work we're also focusing like the EEOC on high impact areas. And sort of novel ways to get systemic really for people with disabilities. And I'll note in that respect that really across the civil rights division, nearly every section is really making ADA work a priority. Whether it's special litigation, the education opportunities section. The housing section of course does a lot of really significant work in this area, too. So I just wanted to touch first on -- a little bit on our statement of interest practice. So that's something that we started doing more of in the last two years at the district court level. We're slightly different from amicus brief in amicus you need to ask the court permission as to whether you can file a brief we take the position that the statements of interest of the United States – DOJ representing the interest of the United States can essentially invite ourselves in. We can sort of drop a brief in any court where there's an issue of interest. And we found that that process really does have a significant effect. And can have a very -- a lot of ripple effects across the Federal courts.
Most recently we filed one in private litigation by the National Association of the Deaf against Harvard. And a parallel case against MIT. So we filed parallel statements of interest in those cases the NAD was arguing that Harvard and MIT's failure to caption their thousands and thousands of hours of online open enrollment courses on their Web site is a violation of those -- the ADA and Section 504. Harvard and MIT filed motions to dismiss. And they were essentially arguing alternatively. First what they wanted first of all was for the Court to save the case pending the department's rulemaking on web accessibility. And that's something called the primary jurisdiction doctorate. And if the court did not say, MIT and Harvard were arguing that the regulations did not require Web site accessibility. Essentially that the inventory section to the ADA would mean that Harvard and MIT's courses were like inventory in a bookstore and did not need -- they didn't need to carry accessible inventory we filed motions explaining to the court why primary jurisdiction was not appropriate in this case why this was an effective communication case which the court could apply long standing regulations and requirements. And it was right in the Court's ballpark. So the court should not save the case. We also explained to the court how the existing regulations imposed a long-standing obligation on Harvard and MIT to make their online courses accessible to people with disabilities. Including the general public. Because these courses are available to a much broader audience than students enrolled in the colleges. I should note I should have started with perhaps our ongoing Olmstead work which is always we have very active litigation and large scale litigation in those cases in Florida and in Oregon. And we are currently in the stage of compliance or implementing the consent decree reached in the Rhode Island case. So that's always a very active area. I'll also note because there's another litigation practice, a recent motion to intervene in private litigation against University of Miami in Ohio. In that case, a student who is blind alleged violations of Title II in that the school was failing to make materials that she needed accessible. And also failing to make their digital and their electronic curriculum available to her. We moved to intervene alleging systemic violations across Miami's curriculum for people with disabilities. And I think what's of note in that case, also, is that we extended the allegations to cover students with learning disabilities, as well. Who were being denied access to electronic content and also having hard copy materials converted in a timely manner.
Keeping on the accessible technology theme, I should note, recent settlement agreements with EdEx under Title III and also with peacock so our enforcement work right now really reflects the priority that we're putting now on accessible technology for people with disabilities. Sally hasn't mentioned but she will, recently with service animal’s technical assistance documents. And we continue to receive an enormous number of service animal related complaints. And I wanted to just note in particular two enforcement actions touching on service animals. First is a letter of finding that we issued against a School District in Upstate New York the Gates Trilight School District. This case involved a six-year-old child with multiple disabilities. Including autism, a seizure disorder. She uses a service animal. She needs some assistance in order to use it in the school setting. A minimal amount of assistance she needs help tethering. She's non-verbal. So she needs some assistance with ordering -- giving commands to the dog. The School District refused to provide any assistance whatsoever. The School District also told the parent that the dog could not be on the school grounds unless the parent paid for a full-time independent handler. So that's what the parent had been doing for the last several years because the safety of her child and her child's autonomy and independence was so important to her that she's been paying out of pocket. We issued a letter of finding to tell the School District that they were in violation of Title II that providing intermittent assistance to the child that would allow the child to handle her service dog in the school setting is a reasonable modification under the ADA. And that the school's failure to do that violates the ADA as does the school's refusal to allow the dog on the grounds without a full-time handler. So that matter is still ongoing. We issued the -- issued this spring and we're working towards a resolution in that matter. On the same theme we filed a statement of interest in private litigation down in Florida, which is Albany Gov V. Broward County School Board and that also involved a young child with a service animal. And we filed the statement of interest to really clarify for the court the law in this area. We found there's a lot of confusion among school districts as to their obligations to children with service animals. And what we are trying to do is really get in there and really address these issues and the interplay of Title II and IDEA and Section 504 in a way that will maximize independence and autonomy for children with disabilities. And on that note, I think I'm going to turn to Sally. We have enforcement matters in almost every area. Cover almost every disability that we could think of. But I think I'll sort of leave that for the Q&A and we'll touch on them there. So here is Sally.
Thank you, Katie. First of all, for our technical assistance and very similar to what Sharon had mentioned, you know the ADA was -- the drafters of the ADA were just so smart and had such foresight to include the mandate that agency -- Federal agencies that had enforcement authority were required to develop and disseminate technical assistance and guidance to those with rights and responsibilities under the act. And you know like the EEOC, we take this very seriously. And we do this in a number of ways. Obviously we have our ADA Web site, which in case you don't know, it's just www.ADA.gov. Where folks can find sort of our breaking news, our recent events, they can find our statements of interest. Other briefs. Our complaints that we file in court. Consent decrease. All of our enforcement work. And you can also find the regulations. You can find technical assistance documents and materials that we have written over the years. And there are dedicated pages. There's an Olmstead page. There's one for project civic access. There's one for our HIV/AIDS work. So if you haven't been there, go there. It's very, very helpful. And ADA.gov I'm going to do a plug for the event that we have coming up this Thursday. The 23rd. And it's the 25th anniversary commemoration. And we are co-sponsoring this with the EEOC and also our friends at the Access Board. And we will be -- this will be available fully accessible with a livestream Thursday. You just go to ADA.gov. And it starts at 10. It's going to be a fairly long program. Probably around 12:30. We will also make it available pretty quickly after that within a day or maybe a couple -- more days. And it will be available for you to go back and look at whenever you have time, whenever the mood sort of hits. But I do encourage you all out there to join us in this remarkable 25th year of the birth of the ADA. So starting at 10 a.m. Eastern Time. I'm really sorry for you guys on the West Coast and further. Set your alarm clocks. But please do join us. It is equally for you.
So a couple of things that we have done, Katie had mentioned our service animal Q&A. Which is an eight-page document that sort of is a companion piece to our original service animal Q&A that came out in I think it was 2011. And we go further and we are answering questions that we continue and continue to get. And I know you folks out there on the front lines. I'll be sure that all of the ADA centers on their information lines get nothing but questions and questions and questions about service animals.And so we're really hoping that this will help clarify some of that. We also did a Title II primer. And this is very similar to the ADA primer for small business that we did within six months of when the 2010 regulations were passed. And this basically is -- covers a variety of topics with a lot of links. It doesn't go into tremendous depth on every subject but we talk about who is protected, who has responsibilities. General non-discrimination requirements. Which is reasonable modifications policies, practices and procedures, service animals, wheelchairs and other power driven mobility devices and effective communication which continues to be a huge issue across the board. Whether it's in law enforcement, whether it's in health care, whether it's in movies, it just continues to be a big issue. We talk a little bit about the built environment where the standards, the element by element safe harbor and training, staff training and making sure things are implemented. The goal of this document really is especially for Title II entities. And especially for smaller Title II entities. Don't have a whole lot of staff. So they can look at this, get a general idea. And then go to the Web site and get further information on these particular topics. We will continue to do more documents. But we have done -- that was last year. I'm trying to remember here. We also did two documents on voting. One was a document that describes the various Federal civil rights laws that apply. And then we did a short -- about a five-page sort of a checklist for making temporary modifications to provide access on voting day. And so that's a good document, as well, for Title II. We also have been working on -- I'm sorry; I have a timer going off and I just can't seem to keep my mind focused on any one thing. We also did a long -- with the Department of Ed we did a Frequently Asked Questions on effective communication for students with hearing, vision and speech disabilities. And you know we anticipate that we will do additional guidance jointly with other Federal agencies. We continue to do a lot of presentations and lots of training. We work a lot in training with the ADA network. So pretty much that is what we're doing. We have a very active calendar. For getting new documents out. And we're really looking forward to when we can actually publish those. And one last plug, if you are not signed up to get an immediate e-alert for late-breaking news. Whether it's new technical assistance guidance material, agreements, any announcements that we have, please go directly to ADA.gov right on the homepage and you'll find a little button that you can sign up for our e-delivery blast so I encourage you all to do that. So with that we thank you so much. And we're looking forward to continuing our discussion with you.
Great well thank you for Sharon and Katie and Sally for a very informative discussion of what's happening, what your activities and things are, thank you for the shout-out to the ADA National Network. It's very appreciated we enjoy our relationship with the agencies, as well. I have questions that have come in online but at this time the operator would like to give instructions for those who are on the telephone, that would be great.
Ladies and gentlemen, if you have a question or comment at this time, please press star then the 1 key on your touch tone telephone.That's star 1 if you have a question.
Great thank you and while we're waiting for people to queue in from the telephone, there's a question that came in related to the recently released service animal Q&A. The individual indicates that the -- some groups that have requested that DOJ revisit that document related to some identified problems or issues with that document. And they are wanting to know whether or not or what the plans that DOJ has with that. Can you respond to that Katie or Sally?
This is Sally. And I am aware of that. And it is my understanding that this is being handled at levels higher than us for our response to the letter. And I think pretty much that's all I can say about that because I'm not specifically a part of that. We did make a couple of changes to the document. And one of them was that we clarified at the end that the ADA does apply to housing. We worked with our housing section here and also with HUD to draft some better language. We fixed the typo. And we changed the language where we inadvertently and you know I take full responsibility for this when we were talking about somebody who is an inpatient in a hospital and if they were after -- given an opportunity to find someone to either come in and provide care and supervision for the dog, take the dog out to relief areas, that if they were unable to find somebody to do that. Or for someone, a family member, or a friend, to take the dog with them, we used the term animal shelter and that was a big mistake and I fess up to that. And because that was just a very poor choice of location. And we have -- we have essentially changed that to boarding facilities. But it is my understanding that either our front office -- probably our front office or our chief Rebecca Bond will be responding directly to the letter that we received from the groups about our service animal document.
Great. Thank you for that update I'm sure you were probably anticipating this next question or if not, we'll -- so over the last couple of years, in fact ever since Department of Justice issued its Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking back in 2010 related to Web site accessibility for both Title II and Title III entities people have been tracking in your various rulemaking the calendar or whatever of rulemaking various dates that DOJ has put out for potential release of those. And of course it's been somewhat of a moving target so we know it will come out we just don't know what year it will come out. So the question here is what is your timeline for the rulemaking on electronics -- accessibility related to electronic web based and other information, if there is one at this time? Can you share that? Or what the insights on the work on that is, please?
Hi this is Katie so the rulemaking agenda that's available to the public is reginfo.gov and the spring 20-5 unified agenda has the Title II NPRM publication date as -- spring 2015. So it has not been issued. Consistent with that. But we would just say keep watching I think is what we would say on all of that.
We just can't say anything more.
Okay. Or else we would have to remove you I'm sure. (Chuckles).
All right. So again, stay tuned. And it will come out we just don't know what month and what year. Okay. So there is an individual who has indicated they have been in contact with -- with the technical assistance line related to some issues with a student in a public school setting. And the -- they were I guess -- they had been indicated that there was a settlement agreement with the Office of Civil Rights related to that. And then they said that they contacted the Office of Civil Rights and they have not gotten a response back and they are asking for your suggestion in relationship to what is their best method of trying to pursue that particular issue.
So I'm not sure that I'm entirely clear. First they can always contact Sally again. And if -- we could get clarification on what it is.
It should -- I believe that there is a way to search the Office of Civil Rights and the Department of Education resolution letters on Department of Ed's Web site. And again, I guess I would urge this person to contact Sally or myself Kathleen.Wolfe.usDOJ.gov and I can get you that information. Or sort of assist you in getting the information you need if it's something that came from the Department of Ed. If it's us we have one settlement agreement related to K through 12 service animals and that's against the Delran Township School District and we have our letter of findings but why don't you contact us directly.
Great, thank you for that information. So then we've got a couple more questions. Let me ask if there's anything from the phone right now.Are any callers on the phone having any questions, operator.
Yes our first question comes from Rick Edwards. Your line is open.
RICK EWARDS: Thanks, Robin, thanks, Sharon and Sally and Katie, too. My question is to all three of you actually. Many folks don't have the ability to leave their job. And in some instances, you know it could be life and death issues. I'm questioning, is there anything that we can do on the ground to decrease the time that it takes to bring a case to resolution faster?
This is Sharon I will start in answering. And I do appreciate the frustration with how long the process can take. Obviously mostly for the people who come to EEOC to file charges. But it also frustrates us within the agency.And unfortunately, I don't think we know of a lot of quick fixes for this. Obviously it requires a lot of people to take the charges, to conduct the investigations, that when we have tens of thousands of these coming in and as I think most people know, a backlog has developed. Not just with the ADA. But for all the laws that we enforce. You know it would be really nice if we could double the number of investigators that we have. That would help a lot to move things along. But that is not going to happen in the current climate in terms of its getting harder and harder to get those Government dollars.One of the things that I really emphasize to people who are even thinking about filing an ADA charge is that certainly don't delay. If you really want to do this. Because it is in some ways a first come first serve. And if you've got 180 days to file or as much as 300 days in most locations, waiting until Day 290 when you could have filed much, much earlier, that just means it will take that much longer to get to your case. So that's one thing.You know, file it. If you really think that this is what you want to do. Or get the process going. If ultimately you want to withdraw it, you can do that. Once you file it does not mean you cannot withdraw it. You control that. The other thing I very strongly recommend is that individuals as much as possible think about what it is that they are complaining about. And perhaps to even write down a kind of chronology. What is it that happened? The more that an individual can help an investigator to understand what has happened, to be somewhat chronological about it in terms of the order of things. I mean where you're sort of bouncing around and saying, well, this happened in February. And then there was this in June. And then last December. And a year before that. Obviously the investigator is going to have to slow it all down, ask for a lot of clarification. And that can end up taking a certain amount of time. Or as the investigator gets into it realizing, wait a minute, this is kind of confusing. And then they have to go back. And reach the individual. So the more that you can kind of organize to help the investigator, you're really helping yourself and you're helping your case. Any documents you have that you're prepared to hand them over and share them with EEOC. People who might know something about the situation you encountered. Who might be good witnesses for EEOC to contact. The more that you have that information and again it's not that I want people to spend weeks doing all of that. You know better to call EEOC, get an appointment. And then start laying all of that out. That could help move things along more quickly.
The other thing I would suggest is to ask about the mediation program. That EEOC operates. Our mediation program moves far more quickly than investigations do. You have nothing to lose by asking about mediation. And going into the mediation program. It is voluntary. EEOC will not force anybody into it. But the benefit is that the individual and the employer may be able to reach an agreement long before EEOC would ever be able to conduct an investigation. And if they reach an agreement, then that's it. It's over. And we don't need to do an investigation. If mediation doesn't work on the other hand, the person that has not lost their place in line for an investigation to occur. So it's not an either/or. But again, many people have been very pleased with the mediation process. It's brought them what they were looking for. It goes faster. It brings them closure. So they can move on with their lives. And so that's something else to look at. But I don't want to paint an overly rosy picture. Unfortunately part of coming to the EEOC does require some patience. That -- that's just a fact of life and will remain so for the foreseeable future.
Hi I'll just add one thing for DOJ. When we have a matter opened and we're investigating, I would encourage people to never hesitate to call and nudge and check up on the status. I think it's helpful to me in the matters that I have. And it can only help bubble things up to the top.Thanks.
Just a reminder, ladies and gentlemen, if you have a question, that's star 1 on your touch tone telephone.
While we're waiting for that I have another question that's come in through the webinar platform. Now this one switches a little bit away from service animals and other things that we talked about. But this is a recreation entity who is asking a question in relationship to this would be a public attendant so a Title II entity. To what extent would there be responsibility or liability if they were to refuse to administer a particular type of anti-seizure medication which is required to be administered regularly to individuals who are participating in their -- one of their programs. Would they -- could you just comment on what extent that there would be responsibilities.
Hi this is Katie. So we have litigation ongoing right now on this specific matter. So I think the best thing for anyone to do would be to look at the filings in that case. It's United States versus NISRA which I don't know the exact name of the entity but it's in the Northern District of Illinois. It's the Northern Illinois Special Recreation Association. And it involves a camp for people with disabilities. And in that case we're alleging that the failure to administer Diastat to a camper with a seizure disorder is a violation of Title II and I think the parameters around that, it would be helpful to look at the filings in that case, which I'm sure are on our Web site. We also recently entered into a settlement agreement in a Title III camp, Camp Bravo and that's on our Web site as well and again that involved -- that was a younger child. A camper who had a seizure disorder and the camp's refusal to administer Diastat and/or permit their staff to be trained to administer Diastat. So in general our position is that -- an entity must legally modify its policies and practices to administer seizure medication, including Diastat. Of course the entity also can assert defenses and I think you can sort of get a better feel for those if you look at what we have said in the NISRA case.
Great and thank you for those references to your existing cases and things so people can go get additional information in regards to those settlements and always keep in mind that obviously settlement agreements are always fact specific to situations at hand but it does give you guidance in relations to things. This is a question for DOJ. This is a reference into the 2010 ADA standards. Would you please comment on if and when there's a conflict between the standards for accessible design and a building code, that being a local or a state building code, which one prevails. And they gave an example. A specific example. So in hurricane zones, in order to meet building code requirements, the threshold requirements do not comply or the door has to have a cane bolt locking device which wouldn't comply that would make emergency shelters such as school sites inaccessible. Can you comment on that?
Yikes. I think generally you know as we all know, there is an obligation to comply with the requirements of the 2010 standards. Now granted I am not out in the construction field. But I haven't heard this before. And what -- I mean we talk to a lot of folks that are in very significant hurricane locations. And I haven't heard this before. But what I would like to do if whoever is asking this question, if you would send it to me and I'm going to get it to one of our architects. And I am at Sally.Conway@usDOJ.gov. And then I can get this to someone who can speak much more coherently than I can. But I'm just surprised, I haven't heard this before. So I want to -- please, whoever this is, please send me an email. And I promise I will get it to someone who can answer your question.
Great. Thank you. And again folks with some of these questions you do have the option always of contacting the Department of Justice through their technical assistance line and as Sally just indicated, you can also contact them through -- you gave the email. Do you want to give that again, Sally?
Sure it's Sally.Conway@usDOJ.gov.
Great, thank you and I also want to remind people that you all have the opportunity to contact the ADA National Network the regional center that serves your geographic area for assistance to work closely with the representatives from the Department of Justice as well on these different issues and can assist you with working through some of these questions and things that you have, as well. Our number is 800-949-4232 and the national Web site is www.ADATA.org where you can locate the center that serves your geographic area. Operator could you please let us know if we have any questions that are on the telephone at this time.
There are no questions in the queue.
Great, thank you. Can you speak -- the next question is whether or not you can speak a little bit more related to going back to service animals. There have been some questions that have come about. And I know your guidance document covers some of these things. But ongoing of course in the summer months and things of that nature with the issue of allowing service animals into areas like swimming pools or even on beaches. And the issue of that, that would often get raised as a public health issue and such. Could you just speak with that, please.
And I'll tell you what, I don't know where you guys all are. But it's very hot here. And we have addressed this in the new document. And it's our position that in terms of a swimming pool that there is no obligation for a covered entity to allow someone to take their service animal into a pool. But everywhere around it, I mean they have to have access you know to the pool deck. Everywhere. Changing rooms, shower, all of that stuff. But other places Robin did you mention like beaches and things?
Yes. You know where you have a public beach so it's not just a swimming pool but you would have a public beach where people are swimming in a controlled area you know like where people would have a lifeguard and things of that nature and they would have regulations that dogs -- service animals could go into -- couldn't go into the water in that area that they have specific dog beach areas and such but the question being would it have to be in that swimming area?
I think you know they can go ahead and have dog beach areas which are typically for pets. Our position -- and I'm pretty sure of this, that there would be nothing that would preclude that animal on a beach from going into the water.
Great, well thank you.
We're having an internal debate.
We have great minds working together there.
We are having an internal debate so it seems to me if a beach has specific places where dogs can go it seems to me that it might be analogous to a swimming pool where you can have your service dog on the beach area with you.
But not in the water because just like a pool, I would think that you know it would be -- it would be analogous. And Sally is going to make -- she is skeptical. But you know a public entity has decided we don't want dogs on our beaches the law says you have to allow service dogs. But I'm not sure --
If they go into the water.
If they go into the water. If they don't go into the swimming pool, I'm not sure I see the distinction between the two. Now of course they can go in the dog area.
They can go in the dog area if they would like. As you can see --
These are tricky.
Yeah these are tricky because a lot of it may -- you know -- people need to stay tuned. Because we are both looking at each other quite skeptically.
And maybe it goes to what you do in the water at the beach. And maybe that's different from what you do in a swimming pool at the beach or how close to other people you have to be in a pool versus how close you would be at the beach. So I think there's a lot of facts that go into that question.
Yes. There's a big difference you know at a beach maybe the northern part of I don't know California or something where it's a very crowded beach. I think we need to think about this. But I do think density has a great deal to do with whatever decision would be made. And I know everybody else is laughing.
So if and when you redo or do anything to modify the service animal document if you're going to do something to update it, this might be one of the things you would -- you might want to address or add to that since it seems to be an issue in question. So I guess that's the dialogue on service animals. But in a different area. So this is a question for Sharon related to service animals. And I know that I think we have addressed this on previous sessions Sharon this question is asking specifically as it relates to the fact that more and more they are seeing emotional support animals coming into the workplace as it relates to especially individuals coming back from -- with traumatic brain injuries and things of that nature or PTSD, etcetera, from various conflicts the U.S. has been involved in and such. Can you please clarify once again the issue of service animals in the workplace versus emotional support animals in the workplace?
Certainly. Let's begin with a reminder that the EEOC and for that matter the courts have not addressed the issue of service animals versus emotional support animals/comfort animals. And one of the things that can be very confusing, especially for individuals who are looking to bring a comfort animal -- I'll just use that terminology -- with them into the workplace, is they will often point to the Department of Justice regulations, employers will, and say, see, we don't have to admit them. And then I get brought in. And it's important to remember that the Department of Justice regulations are not the EEOC regulations. They are not -- they don't bind EEOC and they don't necessarily reflect how the employment provisions of the ADA would look at this issue. The only mention of service animals -- and I think the reference is clearly to service animals, is in the appendix to the ADA regulations. Not in the regulations themselves. But in the appendix that accompanies them. Admittance of a service animal is cited as a form of reasonable accommodation. In other words, that it says the employer doesn't actually have to provide a service animal that an individual may need or desire. But an individual who already has a service animal, the EEOC in the appendix to the ADA regulations said that is a form of reasonable accommodation to admit that animal to the employer's premises. And it is not automatically an undue hardship. That's all that EEOC in all of these years has stated on this subject.
And so given that EEOC has not addressed whether there is legally a distinction between comfort animals and service animals, the courts have not really gotten into this. Then I caution employers about just kind of drawing the same line. And just relying on the Department of Justice regulations.
I don't know whether that distinction will hold. What I do tell employers is that the interactive process whenever there's a request for reasonable accommodation should be used here. By which I mean that employers are free to ask for all kinds of information about the role the animal plays. And how this animal helps somebody. And how this animal will function in a workplace. And specifically it's a workplace where this individual either works or wishes to work. If it's a quiet environment, a noisy environment. Lots of people coming and going. Service animals tend to have documentation and there's all kinds of training that goes into becoming a service animal. Because -- and that includes having to be able to cope with various environments and not to become distracted or frazzled by it. A lot of comfort animals have not necessarily had that kind of training. And may have had almost no training at all.
And so these are very important questions for employers to ask. And when you're the individual wishing to bring a comfort animal in, that you have to be prepared to answer those questions.
One other thing that I have often suggested to employers because you know who wants to become the test legal case for all of this if you don't yet have more specific guidance from EEOC or the courts is I'm a big proponent of trial periods. If you get sort of satisfactory answers about how an animal does help somebody, a comfort animal, how they will function, that they can be in a workplace without being distracting. That the individual will do his or her work, with the animal present. But still an employer has some concerns or some doubts. Then a trial period, two weeks, three weeks, four weeks, of permitting the animal to accompany the individual into the workplace, and see how it goes. And both the individual monitoring the comfort animal, the employer monitoring, if certain things come up, that need to be addressed, you're in there. You're addressing them. If it's a successful trial period, then you may wish to extend it to a second trial period. Lengthen it a little bit. And see how that goes. And if everything really goes well, then you might want to permit it as a reasonable accommodation. On the other hand, if there are serious problems that arise during the trial period, that the animal is wandering off, is not remaining in the control of the individual, that there are -- it's barking. It's doing whatever. That it's interfering with other people doing their jobs, then no, then an employer would have grounds and evidence that this is not working and basically it's an undue hardship so you might want to think about a trial period until there is more definitive legal information. And no, I don't know when more definitive legal pronouncements may come on this issue. But this is about the best that people can do right now.
Great, thank you. Of course that always sparks lots of discussion and lots of conversation in relationship to that. Thank you. For your response. So we have several other questions here so let me get back to them here. Let me just check, are there any questions on the telephone from our operator, please.
Yes. We have a follow-up question from Rick Edwards. Your line is open.
Thanks again. I just would ask Sally that when you're discussing the whole access for service animals on the beaches or the pools that you take into consideration the distinction between the two bodies of water in regards to the filters and the chlorine and stuff that's involved in pools and then of course the normal stuff that goes on in beaches, including you know all sorts of other contaminants and things like that that happen at beaches. In lakes and that sort of thing.
Yes, we will definitely do that.
Thank you. This is a follow-up to your comments earlier Sharon just if you could clarify is the term comfort animal broader than a dog or miniature horse like the ADA would it include other kinds of animals as a comfort animal in your interpretation or the application Sharon.
Again let me emphasize that given the EEOC hasn't provided guidance in this area we don't know the range of potential animals that might be covered. Again, you can look to the Justice Department regulations but they are not binding on the EEOC. And they are not binding, therefore, on how employers want to approach this. I certainly think that if anybody is using as a comfort animal something other than the animal specified dogs and I know in certain circumstances miniature horses, in the DOJ regulations, I think you really do need to be prepared to answer a lot of questions about the animals you bring in. And I think a lot of employers are going to have very strong reactions to a lot of animals that are used out there. They are called comfort animals or emotional support animals. But in terms of their ability to be in a workplace setting is likely to be called into question.
But again there's no way that I can say, you know, what's in, what's out. Because there isn't any guidance from EEOC or the courts as it applies to the employment environment.
Great, thank you. We're going to put you off the dog thing for a minute. We've got another question. This is related to a transportation company where a customer with a disability asked for a particular type of vehicle to pick them up, in this case a town car, the individual is a user of a service animal. The transportation company instead sent an SUV to pick up that customer and assumed because it was because of the service animal can the transportation company refuse to send a town car because of the use of a service animal? I know that this is -- this has also been an issue with we have seen in the paper some discussions about Uber and such that some of the drivers are refusing to pick up people who have service animals and such so maybe just in general the whole context of transportation services and the service animal might be good if you could discuss.
We've heard this stuff, as well. And you know folks with disabilities need to have access to the full range of the vehicles that is provided to the general public. And you know whether it's a town car. Whether it's an SUV. Whether you know it's a truck. If people can generally have access to all of these different levels of luxury or lack of luxury, that should apply to people who use service animals as well.
On the issue of coverage I'll just note we filed a statement of interest in the private litigation against Uber out in Federal Court in California. And I think we waited on a fairly narrow issue. And that was whether the Title III transportation provision applied to Uber. And we explained that they did or we explained how the regulations work. So you may want to look at that, as well.
Great, thank you very much. We have a -- just a couple minutes here left. I have a question here, asking whether or not a past criminal conviction could be considered evidence of direct threat under the ADA. And they are basically specifically asking is it the public entity's responsibility to investigate and gather other direct threat evidence including contacting the person's doctor to ensure that she is taking her anti-psychotic medication, etcetera. Or is that going too far. Is there a better way to address this in the investigative process?
In terms of the first question that was asked about some kind of criminal conviction being evidence of direct threat, not necessarily. So where is the disability and then you added in Robin that the question does get around through it. So if I understand it you have somebody with a disability who has had a criminal conviction. And now there are still direct threat concerns. In some cases it may be completely irrelevant. Because of you know criminal convictions are not necessarily about health or safety risks. For starters. And that's all direct threat is concerned about. You know depending on when it was. I mean, if we've got a criminal conviction, let's say for something like assault or battery, No. 1, was it even connected to the disability. Just because it happens to be a person with a disability, doesn't mean that it automatically is connected. But even if it was, if this was 15 years ago, you know somebody was a teenager, got into a fight of some kind. And that's where this conviction came in. And now it's 15, 20 years later, and there's been nothing since then, then that in and of itself, that criminal conviction just as if it was an isolated event criminal conviction of any kind a crime but again some kind of let's say it was a workplace incident 15, 20 years ago. It still is a long time ago and so in and of itself that's not saying that today this person poses a direct threat. So without more specifics, I can't you know give a kind of a yes-no answer to it. To say, oh, you never would look at a criminal conviction or you would always look at it. If an employer thinks there is something about the criminal conviction that it does have some connection with the disability, and with that, I wouldn't make an assumption that it does. But if it does, you know the length -- what was it about, the -- how long ago was it. What's happening now? Because remember direct threat is always about today. This person. Or in the very near future might be posing a significant risk of substantial harm. And so you really don't -- you want to be careful about using any incidents from the past unless there seems to be a real pattern going on. That's a different story.So that's the sort of way I would start looking at that piece of information.
Great, thank you. Let's see. Are there any other -- let me just do one more question -- we're getting to the end of the hour here related to telephone at all? Operator, no?
Ladies and gentlemen just a reminder if you have a question or comment that's star 1 on your touch tone telephone.
Great, thank you. Just for the person who sent in a message related to an apartment building and responsibility for architectural access in that apartment building, I didn't know Sally if you just want to make a distinction that a privately owned not federally funded etcetera apartment building would not be covered under the ADA. This is an issue of problems with the doors being too heavy for someone to open them and then refusing to put in automatic doors.
I think you just answered the question, Robin.
Yeah. So for the individual --
Yeah and especially if it's -- I mean generally speaking what we're talking about residential we're talking under Title II. Then for the ADA. And that would be things that are basically programs that are funded by the state or local Government. Which you know housing authorities and things like that. But if it's you know this is generally it's going to fall to HUD. But also under their requirement to make reasonable accommodations under the Fair Housing Act and all of those things. So I would feel very comfortable saying folks ought to get in touch with HUD.
Yeah so there is a fair housing hotline available for individuals who have issues specific to housing and problems they might be having with that, as well. So that would be probably my suggestion there is that the individual might want to have a conversation. And I know that they were saying they were concerned about complaining because they might not get renewal of their contract which of course would also be another violation of that person's rights especially in this case under the Fair Housing Act.
So it's really more of an issue ADA does have its limitations of what it does actually cover or not covering in that regards but if it was a public Housing Authority, a public entity, then one would want to pursue definitely within that entity the ADA coordinator or a designated person as it relates to that particular issue to see if they can give you assistance above and beyond the management of that particular building. So we are at the bottom of the hour at this time and we always know we can keep going and going and going as it related to this session because there are always more questions and sometimes not always answers as you heard and sometimes you all will perplex them or you will throw them something they have to think about or go back and get more information on I guess that's a good thing and we recognize the fact that while we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the ADA, we still don't have answers to everything. And for our communities to ensure full inclusion of all people with disabilities and all aspects of their communities and their lives. So I want to thank our presenters today, Katie Wolfe and Sally Conway from the U.S. Department of Justice and Sharon Rennert from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for sharing your time for your expertise for taking our questions and I want to just reiterate to everybody I hope that you all have plans if you are not already been marking or celebrating the accomplishments of the ADA at this anniversary time in your own organizations and institutions, this is a time to do so or plan to do something within this year. Of the 25th anniversary. For those of you who have been celebrating continue to celebrate but let's all continue to also remember that as I said our work is not done so we need to buckle down and make sure that we continue to look at the rights of people with disabilities and continue to ensure that we protect those rights through our activities, our programs, and our services and how we administer those employment included in that. So thank you, everyone and have a great rest of your day. And you can disconnect at this time. We will be sending out an email to you with your evaluation information and information of how you can get a certificate of attendance, as well. So watch for that in the email. So again thank you very much. You can hang up from your phone or disconnect from the webinar platform at this time.
Thank you ladies and gentlemen for participating in today's conference presenters please stand by