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ADA violation suit moves forward in Colorado federal court

The clothing retail store Hollister, an Abercrombie & Fitch subsidiary with three Denver-area locations, will be the subject of a nationwide class-action suit after a recent ruling in federal court. A District of Colorado judge originally ruled in 2011 that the front of Hollister stores, which are elevated, violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The effort to get the national clothing chain to alter store entrances to accommodate people with disabilities is being spearheaded by the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition. The recent class certification comes after the favorable 2011 ruling in Colorado.

The class is to specifically include individuals with disabilities that require the use of wheelchairs. While there is no mention of an employee discrimination suit at this time, if Hollister employees are also negatively affected by the elevated Hollister front entrance, they too could be alleging a discrimination-based lawsuit.

If the action is successful, Hollister will need to alter the store entrances. However, now that the lawsuit has achieved a first victory for the plaintiffs, Hollister may already be looking at alternative designs.

Under the ADA, businesses are required to comply with certain standards to make their goods or services available to everyone, including people with disabilities. There are obvious problems with impediments such as an elevated store entrance, unless there is a wheelchair-accessible ramp included in the design.

The class suit against Hollister is claiming that the stores do not include this type of accommodation, and do not offer an alternative entrance.

Although the ADA has undergone recent revisions, as noted in a previous post, business owners need to be aware of the requirement to make their locations accessible to all.

As seen in the Hollister case, failure to comply with ADA standards, or the perceived failure to comply, can result in discrimination-based lawsuits. The ADA was enacted to ensure equal opportunity. Holding businesses accountable to ADA requirements can advance this goal.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Nationwide Class Can Sue Over Hollister Entrances," Tim Hull, April 25, 2012; ADA.gov, "Introduction to the Americans with Disabilities Act," undated

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