Over the years, updates to federal laws have protected credit unions from frivolous lawsuits on issues like a missing ATM placard or changes to your privacy notices. Now, the latest issue to make its way to the lawsuit arena is website compliance under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Recently, credit unions in Alabama and Florida have been receiving lawyer demand letters stating that a blind client is entitled to damages under the ADA because of the credit union’s website failing to comply with the ADA. In an effort to combat these lawsuits, the LSCU worked with Congressman Ron DeSantis (R-St. Augustine) to author a “Dear Colleague” letter so that the U.S. Department of Justice would offer guidance to credit unions, and other businesses, on what was required of them under the ADA.

Because of the lack of guidance, more and more credit unions are receiving these demand letters and are scrambling to figure out what to do. CUNA and the Leagues have been working closely with CUNA Mutual Group (CMG) on this issue and have asked them to highlight any opportunities for us to engage in/and or support legal advocacy efforts. CMG also attended a meeting with DOJ on this issue. It is my understanding, that CMG hopes to identify an opportunity to create helpful precedents but the right set of facts/circumstances has not yet presented itself.  This is because ADA litigation can be extremely costly and difficult to combat in court even when completely frivolous.

CUNA has also spoken with an outside defense counsel in California, who knows the work of Pacific Trial Attorneys well, and asked them to keep credit unions updated if they see any opportunity for legal advocacy.  Next week, CUNA will be meeting with senior counsel of the House Judiciary Committee again to discuss how we can stop this.  Additionally, there will be a breakout session at CUNA GAC to help credit unions understand the steps to take to avoid these lawsuits. CUNA recently had a blog posting on this issue, which discussed the withdrawal of the unfinished rules that have caused this issue and what the next steps are at the DOJ.

If you have received one of these letters, we suggest you immediately contact your attorneys, and please let us know by contacting Jared Ross, Senior VP of Association Services, so that we can let CUNA know how many of our credit unions are affected. Additionally, we encourage all credit unions to have their website audited for current ADA Compliance.

Read a related article from CUNA’s Jim Nussle here.

Where’s Patrick:  This week I will be hitting the road again, traveling to Columbia, SC for meetings with our sister League and then on to south Florida for individual credit union visits as well as speaking to the Southernmost Chapter.  To see my tentative schedule for the next two weeks, visit the LSCU Information for Credit Unions’ webpage.