January 04, 2019

Appeals court upholds CU's ADA lawsuit dismissal; NAFCU monitoring implications

Hunt, Bruyere at 4th Circuit
NAFCU's Carrie Hunt and Brandy Bruyere outside the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., in October as they attended oral arguments for DOLFCU's ADA case.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit against the Department of Labor Federal Credit Union (DOLFCU) related to unclear website accessibility standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). NAFCU stood by DOLFCU at oral arguments before the court in October and filed an amicus brief in support of the credit union in this case.

The court determined the plaintiff lacked standing. A new NAFCU Compliance Blog post out today further explains the decision.

"This is an important decision for credit unions – it's the first dismissal at the appellate level, which is likely to set a heavier precedent than those we've already seen from lower court cases," said Carrie Hunt, NAFCU's executive vice president of government affairs and general counsel. "NAFCU will continue to support credit unions facing these meritless lawsuits and work with the Justice Department to get clear guidance on the issue."

NAFCU will monitor other lawsuits to see how this decision affects them. The association is also waiting to see if the Fourth Circuit will schedule oral arguments for a case against Northwest Federal Credit Union now that the DOLFCU lawsuit has been dismissed.

NAFCU has been active on this issue over the past year and has also engaged with the Justice Department and Congress to provide guidance. In September, a group of senators – led by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa – sent a NAFCU-sought letter to the Justice Department urging that it provide clarity on this issue.

The association has filed 16 amicus briefs in seven different states to support credit unions targeted by ADA website accessibility litigation. So far, eight of the complaints in which NAFCU has supported the credit union have been dismissed.

NAFCU's defense of credit unions facing these lawsuits has led to a slowdown in lawsuits against the industry; no new federal cases have been filed against credit unions since April.

While NAFCU and its members strongly support the protections of the ADA, it believes that these efforts are best achieved through clear guidance and standards for website compliance, not through meritless and costly lawsuits.

NAFCU resources for dealing with the ADA issue can be found here.