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Allowing public access adds new duty to accommodate disabled

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in Compensation and Benefits,Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

The Twentieth Century Fox production lot in Los Angeles includes many conveniences, including a commissary, store and automatic teller machine. However, Les Jankey was unable to use these services when business took him on the lot because they aren't wheelchair accessible.

Jankey sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits places of "public accommodation" from discriminating against people with disabilities.

But Jankey lost because access to the lot is restricted to employees and authorized business guests; it's not open to the general public. Thus, the facilities on the lot fall under ADA's exception for private establishments. (Jankey v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., No. 98-56585, 9th Cir., 2000)

Advice: Twentieth Century escaped liability because its lot was not open to the public. If you have a "private" workplace but are adding new conveniences for employees, such as a cafeteria, be careful about whom you let in. You could be opening yourself to claims for accessibility from independent contractors or others.

A good resource: The Justice Department offers a 15-page booklet, the ADA Guide for Small Businesses, that explains the public accommodation sections of that law. For a copy or to get other technical advice, call the ADA technical assistance line at (800) 514-0301 or visit www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/adahom1.htm.

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