For Immediate Release
Alexis Squire, Equal Rights Center, 202-370-3209
WASHINGTON, October 22, 2014—Yesterday, the Equal Rights Center (ERC)—a national non-profit civil rights organization headquartered in Washington, D.C.—filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois against Kohl’s Corporation and Kohl’s Department Stores, Inc. (Kohl’s), a Wisconsin-based department store retail chain. The suit alleges that Kohl’s violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the New York Human Rights Law by discriminating against customers with mobility disabilities at department store locations nationwide.
“Individuals with disabilities have a right to accessible public accommodations under the law,” said Melvina Ford, executive director of the ERC. “By denying shoppers with disabilities the ability to successfully navigate their stores, Kohl’s is participating in a practice of systematically denying equal access to individuals with disabilities.”
The ERC undertook a survey of the accessibility of Kohl’s department stores after receiving a number of complaints from both ERC members and non-members shopping at Kohl’s locations nationwide. Based on the pervasiveness and geographical span of these complaints, the ERC surveyed stores located in Arizona, California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.
Accessibility barriers were found at all 41 locations surveyed, including: too narrow aisles, inaccessible sales or service counters, inaccessible merchandise displays, inaccessible parking spaces, inaccessible restroom facilities and inaccessible fitting rooms. Executives at Kohl’s were made aware of the complaints as early as 2012.
“Discriminatory practices against customers with disabilities, whether intentional or unintentional, are a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA],” said Matthew Handley, Director of Litigation for the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. “The accessibility barriers described in the complaint are the direct result of Kohl’s failure to comply with the ADA.”
According to a 2010 report from the United States Census Bureau, there are approximately 3.6 million individuals in the United States who have mobility disabilities and rely on the use of wheelchairs. These individuals constitute a significant portion of the U.S. consumer base, and deserve equal treatment from establishments that provide public accommodations. The ERC is represented in this matter by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs, and Robbins, Salomon & Patt, Ltd. of Chicago, Illinois.
About the Equal Rights Center (www.equalrightscenter.org)
Originally formed in 1983, the Equal Rights Center (ERC) is a national non-profit civil rights organization based in Washington, D.C. With members located in every state and the District of Columbia, the ERC works nationally to promote equal opportunity in housing, employment, disability rights, immigrant rights, and access to public accommodations and government services for all protected classes under federal, state, and local laws.