Disability Rights Legislation

HB 271 – Disability accessibility violations (2017-2018)

To enact section 4112.16 of the Revised Code to authorize an alleged aggrieved party to provide a notice of an alleged accessibility law violation in advance of filing a civil action and to establish the circumstances under which an alleged aggrieved party is entitled to attorney's fees in a civil action based on the violation.

Link to Bill:
https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislation/legislation-summary?id=GA132-HB-271
Status:
Pending
Summary:

HB 271 makes changes to state disability accessibility laws. The bill would “allow” a person with a disability who encounters what they believe to be a violation of an accessibility law to serve the property owner or other responsible party with notice of their intent to sue. Those who file suit before providing this notice would not be able to recover attorney’s fees, unless the judge determines such fees are appropriate given the willfulness, duration, or severity of the property owner’s violation.

In addition, the property owner or other responsible party would be given 15 days to respond after being served notice, and would be permitted to rectify the violation within 90 days, with the possibility of another 90 day extension if they can provide a “reasonable explanation” of why they need the additional time.

HB 271’s requirements would not apply to actions initiated by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.

Primary Sponsors:
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Secondary Sponsors:
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Committee:
Civil Justice (H)
LSC Legislation Status:
https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislation/legislation-status?id=GA132-HB-271
Jurisdiction/Legislation Level:
State
Our take on this bill:

The passage of accessibility laws over the last several decades has allowed people with disabilities to become increasingly able to participate in and contribute to our society. HB 271 threatens to erode that progress, by removing much of business owners’ incentive to voluntarily comply with Ohio’s accessibility laws.

HB 271 gives those who are breaking accessibility laws, even those knowingly doing so, up to six months after receiving notice to continue violating the law without legal ramifications. Accordingly, some businesses may intentionally forego compliance with state accessibility laws, taking their chances that no one will complain.

Business owners have a responsibility to stay knowledgeable of and comply with a host of legal requirements, including accessibility laws. This bill would unfairly shift the burden of ensuring compliance to the very individuals that these laws are supposed to protect.

Most people with disabilities who experience discrimination do not go through the burdensome process of filing suit. This bill has the potential to further discourage people from exercising their legal rights by imposing long waiting periods during which people with disabilities must continue to endure a barrier. Those who decide not to comply with HB 271’s burdensome requirements are at risk of not being able to recover attorney’s fees.

Bill Status:

Introduced in the House on 6/12/17

Referred to the House Civil Justice Committee on 6/20/17

Received Committee hearings on 9/13/17 and 9/20/17