On June 24, 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down two employer-friendly decisions that will make it more difficult for plaintiffs to prevail in discrimination suits based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. These decisions will significantly and seriously effect an employee’s right to a discrimination-free workplace.
About two weeks ago was the memorial service for one of my former clients, Ms. Shirley Riley. I met Ms. Riley through some pro bono work I was doing for her in March 2009 for the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. At that time I was nearly a year into doing pro bono work for the Clinic; but it was through Ms. Riley’s set of circumstances that I became intimate with the functions of the D.C. Department of Human Services (DHS) and its failings with regard to serving those with disabilities in the DC shelter system. It was also through Ms. Riley’s situation that I became even more intimate with the good pro bono legal work can do for individuals and society-at-large.
Ms. Riley had impairments that required she have an accessible room and a location with no communal setting. She was placed at one of the city’s main shelters, DC General, which provided neither of these accommodations at the time. Taking the typical course of action, I began using the administrative process to have Ms. Riley moved to a better environment. Unfortunately, my efforts were not initially being responded to by DHS. I even had to go so far as to testify before DHS on Ms. Riley’s behalf to bring its shortcomings to the attention of DHS leadership. Ms. Riley was eventually moved from the shelter to an apartment-style residence and provided a more accommodating environment. In the end, litigation was initiated by Ms. Riley and my colleague at the Legal Clinic, Amber Harding.
Recently, news came out that Senators from both sides of the aisle are supporting the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This treaty, while signed by President Obama in 2009, still needs ratification by the U.S. Senate to have full effect here in America. This bipartisan support is promising not only for a frequently-gridlocked Senate, but the fate of this historic, yet stalled, treaty.
There has been a concerning argument by those opposing the treaty that ratification will override U.S. law and force those in our country to have additional legal and financial obligations. These fears are not only unfounded, but contrary to what would happen if the treaty goes into effect.
You may have noticed that the Gowen Group’s website looks a little more en vogue. Thanks to the professional services of Rachael Dean Photography, the attorneys partook in a photo shoot at their downtown DC office. In addition to some of the fantastic staff shots Rachael was able to grab, she provided some pictures of the DC area to give our website some local flair.
You can find the choice photos on our website, but check out the additional shots below.
The weather is getting warm and many Americans are beginning to plan their spring and summer vacations. For those Americans who have mobility impairments or use a wheelchair, the hotel or motel they choose plays a key role in where they end up staying. Even though we are decades removed from the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, there are still many hotels that are not accessible for those with physical disabilities.
One amenity offered by hotels that should soon always be accessible are swimming pools. Unfortunately, pressure from the hotel industry has delayed regulations issued by the Justice Department that would have required hotel operators to make their swimming pools accessible by installing lifts. For those with mobility impairments and the elderly, these lifts are key in making sure someone gets safely in and out of the pool and can enjoy the water like anyone else staying at the hotel.
Currently, due to this pressure from hotel lobbyists, the rules are now to go into effect on May 17, 2012 with the potential of having the compliance deadline extended even further to September 17, 2012. But that still doesn’t mean you or a family member should encounter an inaccessible hotel on your upcoming trip.
In addition to swimming pools, the attorneys of The Gowen Group are here to make sure these hotels and motels are accessible in the rooms, services, and goods they provide to you. Contact us today if you would like to talk to us further about making sure your upcoming vacation is an accessible one! In the meantime, we will keep watch for whether the regulations go into effect before or after vacation season.