Does anyone have any concrete examples of how "undue burden" is determined for a county government under the ADA?
August 28, 2009 3:53 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have any concrete examples of how "undue burden" is determined for a county government under the ADA?

Yes, YANAL, but: a deaf friend who works for a county government was denied an interpreter at a mandatory equal opportunity training (irony lovers, rejoice).

I can't find anything specifically giving examples of how undue financial burden is determined in a case like this.... I did find that the county government is bound by the ADA, and that the type of and cost of the accommodation are considered in light of the overall financial resources of the facility or facilities involved in the provision of the reasonable accommodation, but nothing specifically detailing what expense would be acceptable as compared to a county budget.

How would you go about finding that sort of information? Would it require looking into court records of cases brought against local governments?

My friend's rather shaken up, her comfort around administration considerably lowered.... But she's interested less in grievance than in correction, if it can be forced.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Could she request the list of people the county consulted to determine cost of providing services? Then request to see the budget allocated for such services. It is possible neither exists.

Might have her contact an advocacy group which undoubtedly handle this often.

This might be a good place to start.
posted by edgeways at 4:27 PM on August 28, 2009

Did the county tell her it was an undue burden? Or did they just blow her off? (I'm deaf blind, happens all the time.)

There is no really good working definition of "undue burden" in the law itself. It is up for a lot of interpretation. But it seems that the company (or organization) needs to show that providing the accommodation would be so costly as to inhibit the organization from meeting it's central mission. (i.e. provide services, make a profit in the case of a corp, etc.)

You don't say how long the meeting was, but if it was anything from a few hours to even a few days workshop type of thing, it is ridiculous for a county to claim undue burden.

This is the kind of thing (especially in an EEO type of setting that is mandatory) that is a really good thing to threaten to go to the press with. Most likely, someone just didn't know what to do, how to secure an interpreter, how to do the payment/paperwork for it, and thus just didn't bother to comply. I'd start documenting everything, follow-up with higher ups, and don't let it go. It can probably be taken care of internally with a little pressure.

Also, as stated above, every state has some version of a civil rights commission, or she could go straight to the EEOC itself (Too IRONIC!) and get some people on her side.

Good luck, it is a constant battle that never goes away.
posted by Bueller at 4:36 PM on August 28, 2009

Contacting advocacy groups is indeed the way to go; NAD is a possibility, but a local group might be more helpful - if you mention where you are (even what state), I might be able to make suggestions. If your friend were in Massachusetts, for example, her best bets would be MCDHH (the Mass. Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing), MSAD (Mass State Association of the Deaf), and possibly Deaf, Inc (which is Boston-area) or a similar group.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 4:43 PM on August 28, 2009

Some initial comments:

When assessing undue burden on a public entity, its entire budget and all its assets are considered.

This Department of Justice link has a good summary of Title II (the part of the ADA covering public entities).

The part that jumps out at me in a quick scan is that state/local govt's "must eliminate unnecessary eligibility standards or rules that deny individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to enjoy their services, programs or activities."

As to grievance/correction, it sounds like your friend would not want to sue. She doesn't have to; the DOJ offers free mediation of ADA disputes.

Finally, I did a quick search for cases where a county was sued for not providing the services of an interpreter to a deaf person; I didn't find any where the deaf person was a county employee (the cases involved a lack of an interpreter during an arrest, during mercury decontamination, etc). I'll do a bit more poking around and see if I can find something you might find relevant.
posted by Ashley801 at 5:29 PM on August 28, 2009

I work at a non-profit and represent worker with disabilities including deaf people who are denied interpreting services at work. She can email me for referrals or she may be in my area in which case we can help (if that's what she wants).
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 5:29 PM on August 28, 2009

(FWIW, I don't think there's any chance the county could prevail on an undue hardship defense, unless there are very, very unusual circumstances.) Memail me for my work contact information.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 5:32 PM on August 28, 2009

Outside the context, but answering the question, a governmental agency could legitimately claim that a particular bathroom in an older building would be exceedingly costly to convert to fully accessible.

A rural county might not have reasonable access to an interpreter for the deaf. A county with any sizeable population would not likely be able to make that claim and make it stick.
posted by megatherium at 5:50 PM on August 28, 2009

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