Many people assume that the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) only applies to employment and housing issues. But the anti-discrimination law also applies to all business that offer goods, services and facilities to the general public, legally known as a public accommodations. This includes restaurants, hotels, doctor’s offices, camps, movie theatres and even professional offices like doctors’ and lawyers’ offices.
The LAD requires places of public accommodation to provide “reasonable accommodations” to disabled individuals. Specifically, the law requires “that places of public accommodations are, to the extent reasonable, required to accommodate a person with a disability in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of that person.”
Generally, unless the accommodation would impose an under burden on the operation of the business, the owner/manager is legally required to give it. Those exceptions should be discussed with a lawsuit or an engineer specializing in this area. An undue burden could either be financial or it could materially alter the design or operation of the business. Examples of reasonable accommodations can range from widening doors and installing offset hinges to widen doorways, offering examinations or courses in a place and manner accessible to people with disabilities, offering alternative accessibility arrangements and remodeling merchandise display areas in a department store. Additionally, individuals accompanied by a guide or service dog are entitled to full and equal access to all places of public accommodation.
All it can take is one claim or lawsuit by a handicapped customer to bring large expenses and legal fees to a business. Every company that services the public should review the accessibility of its store or office to the variety of individual disabilities from which a customer may suffer. Omar Bareentto is a 2016 Rutgers School of Law graduate and a former contributor to the Rutgers Business Law Review. He collaborated with me on this blog.