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Your website can trigger a discrimination claim

Website accessibility is an emerging business risk

Does your business have a website? You may be exposed to a discrimination claim if the disabled don’t have access to online services. It’s the latest employment practices liability exposure as attorneys and activists extend the rules from the workplace to virtual space and beyond.

Online or on the spot?

“If you have a website, you may want to think about accessibility guidelines,” said Todd Cincotta, HSB vice president for strategic products. “The rights of the disabled or older people with limited abilities to have equal access to web pages and apps is an emerging trend in employment law.”

Discrimination claims are increasing

An increasing number of letters have been sent in the past year to businesses by plaintiff attorneys and advocacy groups for the disabled. They claim some websites are not accessible to individuals with disabilities — consumers with hearing, vision, or physical impairments for example — so they can’t access the site and conduct business like other customers.

How to make your website accessible

That could mean changing the look, design and software for your website and adding tools such as visual controls, captions and transcripts, sign language videos, keyboard shortcuts, and using symbols instead of text. It is much more difficult to make changes than to build in accessibility from the start and your web designers must continue to evaluate and improve access.

Don’t forget about employees

It’s not just customers who might demand better access. “A lack of website accessibility could also lead to claims by employees of a business or institution,” explained Cincotta. “What if a company provides employee benefit selections online through its own intranet? Employees with disabilities could claim the same right of online access that is afforded any other worker.”

Legal guidance doesn’t keep up with technology

Claim activity over website accessibility has picked up and it could create uncertainty for businesses because of a lack of clear guidance from federal and state authorities.

As employment laws reach beyond the expected

It’s one of many new exposures with broad reach that employers may not fully grasp. Federal, state and local agencies continue to expand enforcement to areas that once were thought of as beyond the scope of employment-related laws and regulations.

HSB’s EPL insurance offers up-to-date protection

HSB’s Portfolio Employment Practices Liability insurance can help businesses and institutions respond to an evolving workplace environment. Our coverage includes liability protection, robust loss prevention services, access to legal expertise, and other best practices to help avoid and defend against a claim.

Get more information

Click here for more information about HSB’s Portfolio EPL coverage, or contact your HSB representative

Your website can trigger a discrimination claim