FAQs on Service Animal Requirements of the ADA. What Every Hotelier Needs to Know. Why Uber was Sued
September 17, 2014 10:27am
By Jim Butler and the Global Hospitality Group®
Hotel Lawyers | Authors of www.HotelLawBlog.com
17 September 2014
The recent Uber lawsuit
On September 9, 2014, Uber Technologies was sued in Federal Court in San Francisco for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California's Unruh Act. The suit arose from the claim that UberX drivers refused to allow blind riders to bring their guide dogs. For a copy of the complaint, click here to see Natl Federation of the Blind v. Uber Technologies.
This is just the latest in a long history of complaints or enforcement actions involving the legal requirements concerning "service animals" under the ADA and corresponding state laws such as California's Unruh Act.
Why public facilities are subject to these service animal rules
Like Uber taxis, all hotels, restaurants, spas, retail facilities, movie theatres, and sports and entertainment venues are places of public accommodation. As such, they are expressly subject to the ADA and corresponding state laws.
Because so many people ask us about the "service animal" issues, we thought it might be helpful to provide our industry friends with some guidelines on the major questions in this area through a series of frequently asked questions or FAQs about this subject.
FAQs about the ADA's legal requirements for service animals
Jim Butler & Marty Orlick
ADA Defense & Compliance Lawyers
Here are some of the most Frequently Asked Questions on service animal issues under the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA.
What qualifies as a "service animal?"
Under the ADA, a dog or miniature horse that "is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability" qualifies as a service animal.The "work" or "tasks" performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual's disability. For example, the service animal might pull a wheelchair, guide a visually impaired person, or assist an individual with psychiatric disabilities.
Comfort animals and pets are NOT service animals. Comfort animals merely provide emotional support and are not individually trained to assist with a disability.
What can you ask a customer who enters your business with an animal?
Businesses and their representatives who come in contact with the public may ask only two questions of individuals regarding their service animals:
1. Is the animal required because of a disability?
2. What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?
What businesses may NOT ask:
Businesses may not ask anything else. For example, they may NOT ask
Do you have to alter your establishment to accommodate service animals?
A public accommodation is not required to accommodate a service animal when doing so would result in a fundamental alteration to the nature of the business.
Examples: The following do NOT qualify as fundamental alterations:
Example: The following would qualify as a "fundamental alteration" and does not have to be accommodated:
Common questions and answers about service animals:
For more information on our preventative enterprise-wide ADA compliance program . . .
Too often we see property owners and managers get "stuck" on a single element of ADA compliance, whether that is pool lifts or web access. Don't focus on any single element. The best approach to avoiding an ADA lawsuit is to conduct an ADA compliance and prevention survey of your business. The survey should include an assessment of the following:
Subpar performance on any one of these elements could mean trouble in an ADA suit.
The survey should be done under representation of an attorney, which will give the results of the survey protection under attorney-client privilege.
For more information on our enterprise-wide ADA compliance program, please contact us:
Chairman, Global Hospitality Group®
Senior Member, Global Hospitality Group®
Chairman, ADA Defense Team
Other ADA defense and compliance resources
You can access the full library of ADA materials on Hotel Law Blog by going to the home page, selecting the tab at the top that says "HOTEL LAW TOPICS", and then clicking on "ADA Defense & Compliance" in the drop down menu . . . or by clicking here.
Below is a partial listing of articles by JMBM's ADA Defense Lawyer team:
ADA Compliance & Defense Lawyer: FAQs on “service animal” requirements of the ADA. What every hotelier needs to know. Why Uber was sued over service animals.
ADA Compliance and Defense Lawyer: Starwood Hotels and The Phoenician get an expensive (and unnecessary) lesson in ADA compliance. Who's next?
DOJ sues 3 of NYC's top Zagat-rated restaurants for ADA violations
ADA compliance and defense lawyer: ADA experts discuss hottest issues facing the hotel industry today
ADA compliance and defense lawyer alert: Charles Schwab settles claim over website accessibility
A blast against frivolous, serial ADA lawsuits in striking the right balance
GlobeSt.com interviews JMBM's ADA Defense and Compliance Lawyers
New ADA compliance standards for golf courses. What do they mean to you?
Updating Service Animal Policies of Your Hotel or Other "Place of Lodging"
How to handle an ADA lawsuit . . . and How not to do it
How a recent ADA case affects all hotels but particularly conference centers and meeting hotels
ADA Defense Lawyer Alert: Hilton's ADA Settlement with the Department of Justice: Precedent-setting agreement delivers more than removing architectural barriers
When disabled hotel guests' needs go beyond the norm for typical guests, what do hotel owners and managers have to do?
ADA Sweeps by U.S. Department of Justice - Coming to a theater district or Hotel near you soon? How to get ready before it's too late.
Defending ADA lawsuits. How your hotel website can make you a target for ADA lawsuits
Martin H. Orlick is one of the top ADA defense lawyers in the country. He has helped hotel, restaurant, retail and other commercial property owners defend more than 500 ADA cases. In addition to defending lawsuits and governmental investigations, Marty's team of ADA specialists focuses on enterprise-wide ADA compliance and litigation prevention, including facilities, website and operational compliance. He is also is a senior member of the law firm's Global Hospitality Group®, a partner in the real estate department, and a member of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers (ACREL). For more information about ADA compliance and defense, contact Marty Orlick at 415.984.9667 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jim Butler is a founding partner of JMBM, and the founder and chairman of JMBM's Global Hospitality Group® and Chinese Investment Group™. He is recognized as one of the top hotel lawyers in the world and has authored or co-authored The HMA & Franchise Agreement Handbook, How to Buy a Hotel Handbook, and The Lenders Handbook. Jim has led the Global Hospitality Group® in more than $68 billion of hotel transactional experience, involving more than 1,500 hotel properties located around the globe. Jim's team has worked on more than 60 EB-5 projects over the past three years. 310.201-3526 or email@example.com
This is Jim Butler, author of www.HotelLawBlog.com and hotel lawyer, signing off. We've done more than $68 billion of hotel transactions and have developed innovative solutions to unlock value from hotels. Who's your hotel lawyer?
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Contact: Jim Butler
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