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ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 Passes U.S. House
Friday, February 16, 2018 6:40 AM

H.R. 620, the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017, by Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) was passed by the U.S. House on Thursday, Feb. 15. The bill addresses the problem many businesses face when attorneys threaten legal action for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). H.R. 620 seeks to ensure protection of individuals with disabilities while providing business owners with the opportunity to remedy alleged ADA infractions before incurring litigation costs.

"The Cornerstone Credit Union League is grateful to Rep. Poe for his leadership on this matter," said Cornerstone Credit Union League President/CEO Caroline Willard. "This is an important protection for credit unions from predatory lawyers that are after money."

Specifically, the bill amends the private enforcement provisions of the public accommodation requirements of Title III of the ADA to require a notice and cure period before the commencement of a private civil action; requires the Department of Justice to develop a program to educate state and local governments and property owners on strategies for promoting access to public accommodations for persons with a disability; and requires the Judicial Conference of the United States to develop a model program to promote alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to resolve claims of architectural barriers for public accommodations.

Floor amendments to H.R. 620 that were approved:

  • Will ensure the ADA compliance publications are available in languages commonly used by owners and operators of U.S. businesses.
  • Will shorten the timeline from 180 to 120 total days.
  • Will clarify allowable reasons for a lack of progress that is outside the control of the business that is addressing the alleged violation.
  • Strikes the requirement that the written notices of alleged violation include the specific sections of the ADA alleged to have been violated.

These lawsuits were described as extortion and shakedowns by the lawmakers supporting H.R. 620. During floor debate, it was pointed out that generally these lawsuits are for the financial benefit of the plaintiffs' lawyers and a small number of plaintiffs in whose name the lawsuits are filed.

Opponents of H.R. 620 stated that victims of these lawsuits should bring up their concerns with state bars or ethics agencies. During the debate, there was a discussion between Rep. Poe and Rep. Woodall (R-Ga.) about the demand letters credit unions across the nation have received from law firms threatening lawsuits over websites that the letters represent are in violation of the ADA. The colloquy made the point that websites did not exist when the ADA was passed, and many believe the ADA does not apply to websites. Rep. Poe agreed to work with his colleagues to ask the Department of Justice to provide guidance to business regarding how or if the ADA applies to websites.

Rep. Poe made a strong case laying out the need for H.R. 620 to make sure that persons with disabilities have access to businesses and those businesses are not forced to make payouts to lawyers, rather providing services to those wanting them. 

Protesters in the House gallery, in violation of the law and House rules for visitors in the gallery, attempted to disrupt the vote on H.R. 620 but were removed from gallery and the vote proceeded. The bill passed on a vote of 225-192. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Contact Texas Credit Union Association President Jeff Huffman at 469-385-6488 or jhuffman@txcua.coop for more information.