2012.06.26 Hollister Stores Violate Americans with Disabilities Act

Submitted by Legal Program on June 26, 2012 - 5:05pm

Today United States Department of Justice attorneys filed a Statement of Interest saying 247 Hollister stores in the U.S. violate the ADA.  These stores -- all designed and constructed after the ADA became law -- have front entrances with two steps and require customers who use wheelchairs to enter through a separate entrance.

 

According to the statement filed today by Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Nabina Sinha, "Defendants’ raised porches violate both the letter and the spirit of the ADA.  They embody precisely the kind of segregated, second-class treatment of people with disabilities the ADA was intended to combat.  They, in essence, send people with disabilities through the 'back' door."

 

Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition ("CCDC") and two of its members who use wheelchairs, Anita Hansen and Julie Farrar, filed this lawsuit beginning in 2009 saying Hollister stores in Colorado's Park Meadows Mall and Orchard Town Center stores discriminate against customers who use wheelchairs. 

 Information about this case and the court filings can be found here.

 

Since this case was filed, Senior United States District Court Judge Wiley Y. Daniel ruled the Colorado stores with steps violate the ADA.  On April 9, 2012, the Court certified a nationwide class action

 

Hollister Stores, owned by Abercrombie & Fitch, have fought making their store entrances accessible throughout the lawsuit, filed in December of 2009.  In an earlier ruling, Judge Daniel said "Defendants have unnecessarily created a design for their brand that excludes people using wheelchairs from full enjoyment of the aesthetic for that brand.  The steps to the center entrance are a legally unacceptable piece of that branding and violate Title III of the ADA." 

 

The Statement filed by the DOJ says not only are the entrances in violation of the ADA, but Defendants’ “Southern California surf shack” porches are a part of the store that is required to be accessible.  Hollister closed its Orchard Towne Center store and made minor changes to its Park Meadows store claiming those changes made it comply with the ADA.  The DOJ disagreed. 

 

“[T]he raised porches at issue in this case function not only as entrances; they also are part of the public retail space of the store.  As such, they are required to be accessible, under [the ADA].  Throughout this litigation, Defendants have emphasized the importance of the “in-store experience” for the Hollister brand.  Defendants have indicated that the unique Hollister store design – including its raised porches, which are covered by a roof, feature a wooden floor, and include furniture and “props” such as lamps, plants, and oars – is at the core of creating this experience.  Because the raised porches including these special features and attributes are used as both public retail spaces and public entrances, they must meet the requirements under the ADA for both uses.”

 

According to the DOJ, “People who use wheelchairs do not get to experience the Southern California surf shack aesthetic of the raised porches.”

 

"It is time for Hollister to stop caring so much about its image and realize people who use wheelchairs are entitled to the same access as all other customers," said Kevin Williams, attorney for the plaintiffs. 

 

CCDC is a plaintiff in this lawsuit and is a non-profit corporation advocating for the rights of people with disabilities in Colorado.  CCDC has been involved in many other lawsuits with public accommodations dealing with accessibility.  For more information about CCDC visit its website.  

 

Updated and additional information about this case can be found on CCDC’s website.

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