November 09, 2017

Berger urges DOJ to address ADA website concerns

As frivolous lawsuits filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) continue to mount, NAFCU President and CEO Dan Berger is urging the Department of Justice (DOJ) to move forward with proposed rulemaking to clarify the act's standards and protect credit unions from undue burdens.

In a letter sent Thursday to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Berger reiterated NAFCU's support of efforts to ensure individuals with disabilities are not discriminated against and have equal access to financial services.

However, Berger noted that the DOJ's silence on whether the ADA's public accommodations provision applies to websites is causing harm to credit unions and the members they serve.

"NAFCU and our members would respectfully request the Department consider issuing additional guidance and/or an interim final rule that provides clear 'rules of the road' for financial institutions in the area of website accessibility under the ADA," Berger wrote. "The current 'grey area' has led to an increase in frivolous litigation which is equating to real dollars being taken out of the hands of credit union members to be put into the pockets of plaintiff's attorneys."

As the DOJ pursues rulemaking to clarify the ADA, Berger asked that the department keep in mind credit unions' status as "member-focused community-based financial institutions" and look to limit potential regulatory burdens credit unions could face as a result of website accessibility requirements.

NAFCU has been incredibly active on ADA, urging members of Congress to take legislative action. A NAFCU-supported bill – the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 620) – would set conditions for filing civil actions over the failure to remove an architectural barrier to an existing public place, among other things. NAFCU is actively working to expand the bill's protections to also cover website lawsuits.

The association also sent a letter last week to the Senate Judiciary Committee ahead of a hearing on the impact of lawsuit abuse on America's small businesses. The letter requested that committee leaders take steps to curb the rise in frivolous lawsuits stemming from the ADA.

NAFCU has many resources related to ADA compliance available to credit unions:

  • In the past month, NAFCU Executive Vice President of Government Affairs and General Counsel Carrie Hunt and Vice President of Regulatory Compliance Brandy Bruyere have reached out to credit unions facing litigation to offer some options other credit unions have taken when faced with similar lawsuits.
  • Bruyere also covered the issue in the association's compliance publication in March to try to help member credit unions identify the risks involved so they could make informed business decisions. The article is now available on NAFCU's website to both members and nonmembers.