Netflix Settles Website Accessibility Case

Posted by Jeanine Gagliardi on Tue, 11/06/2012 - 05:00

We recently posted about a discrimination case proceeding against Netflix in Massachusetts. The plaintiffs claimed that Netflix violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide closed captioning for all of the content on its video streaming web site. Netflix recently settled the case without a trial, precluding judicial resolution of important issues that could have clarified the application of the ADA to websites.

Do Businesses Need to Make Their Web Sites Accessible to the Disabled?

Posted by Jeanine Gagliardi on Tue, 10/23/2012 - 04:00

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) prohibits places of public accommodation from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. There are twelve categories of enterprises that qualify as places of public accommodation. They include places of entertainment, places of recreation, sale and rental establishments, and service establishments. Title III requires such places to comply with accessibility requirements and provide equal access to individuals with disabilities. One issue faced by businesses that operate only on the Internet is whether their web sites are "places of public accommodation". That is, must they be accessible to persons with disabilities?

May You Discriminate Based on "Personal Appearance"?

Posted by Edward Sharkey on Wed, 10/17/2012 - 14:29

The hiring practices of a Boston-based coffee shop could be the impetus behind creation of the country’s newest protected class in employment discrimination cases: unattractive people. Earlier this year, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (“EEOC”) began investigating the coffee shop for what is being called a “beauty bias”. The coffee shop allegedly only hires young, attractive, female employees to staff roughly 30 locations throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

May an Employer Restrict Employees' Use of Social Media?

Posted by Jeanine Gagliardi on Fri, 10/05/2012 - 04:00

One of the rights afforded to employees by the National Labor Relations Act is to communicate with others regarding wages and working conditions. An employer is not allowed to have a rule that could reasonably be construed by employees as prohibiting such communications. A recent decision by the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency tasked with enforcing the Act, reminds employers that they must take care to ensure that their social media policies do not violate the Act in this manner.

Litigation Hold: Businesses May Be Sanctioned for Failing to Preserve Electronic Data Held by a Third Party

Posted by Jeanine Gagliardi on Thu, 09/27/2012 - 15:48

In Maryland, and in most jurisdictions, the law requires businesses to preserve records and information which may be relevant to a lawsuit. The duty to preserve arises as soon as a business reasonably anticipates litigation. The duty extends to information which is stored electronically, like e-mail.

One step a business must take in order to satisfy its duty to preserve is to issue a business litigation hold. This is a process by which a company informs its employees of pending or anticipated litigation and the obligation to preserve relevant records. Business litigators are becoming more familiar with the nature and scope of litigation holds, especially as it pertains to a business's own documents. A new judicial opinion now illustrates how a business may have responsibilities for documents held by third parties.

Can a Parent Release a Child's Potential Injury Claim?

Posted by Jeanine Gagliardi on Fri, 09/21/2012 - 18:06

If you are a parent, you are probably used to signing waivers and releases for your child. Schools and businesses often require parents to release a child's potential claim for injury before allowing the child to participate in a given activity. The releases normally say two things: (1) the provider is released from liability for negligently injuring the child, and (2) the parents will indemnify the provider if any claim is brought.

If you have wondered whether such a release can be enforced, you are not alone.

Pending Case May Overturn Business-Friendly Maryland Law

Posted by Edward Sharkey on Mon, 09/17/2012 - 04:00

A case currently before the Maryland Court of Appeals will determine whether a 160-year-old legal rule in the state will be overturned, and it may have tremendous implications for Maryland businesses and business litigators. The legal principle is called “contributory negligence.” It provides that plaintiffs who contribute to their injuries through their own negligence, however slight, are not entitled to recover compensation, regardless of the defendant’s negligence.

Employers May Be Legally Liable for Unpaid Severance Under Maryland’s Wage Payment and Collection Law

Posted by Edward Sharkey on Wed, 09/12/2012 - 18:22

Pursuant to the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law (the “Law”), employees have a right to sue for unpaid wages. If a court finds that an employer has withheld wages in violation of the Law, the employee may recover three times the unpaid wages and attorneys’ fees. A recent opinion by the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland makes it clear that, in some circumstances, severance pay is a wage that is covered by the Law.

Do You Have to Print Warning Labels in Spanish?

Posted by Jeanine Gagliardi on Wed, 08/22/2012 - 20:55

A practical concern for businesses that make and sell things is the effect of immigration on their duty to consumers. Manufacturers and sellers have a duty to warn consumers of products that are dangerous if the danger is not obvious. The warning must make the danger apparent. One issue manufacturers and sellers face is whether it an English-only warning is adequate. What about consumers that do not speak English?

Is It Illegal to Use Criminal Background Checks in Hiring?

Posted by Jeanine Gagliardi on Thu, 07/19/2012 - 17:30

Prudent employers try to avoid hiring employees who may cheat, steal, or injure co-workers or customers. For this purpose, some businesses use criminal background checks in the hiring process. While there is no blanket ban on this practice, employers must ensure that their consideration of applicants’ criminal backgrounds in particular circumstances does not violate federal anti-discrimination law.

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