Industry Leading HR and Payroll Company, ADP, Sued for Discrimination Against Blind Employees

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Close up of a person's hands using a braille keyboard to read information on a computer monitor, in an office setting
Image: Close up of a person’s hands using a refreshable braille display to read content from computer monitor in an office setting, via DNB

 

September 22, 2020 — San Francisco Bay Area, CA — On September 17,2020, San Francisco’s LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired (LightHouse) and two of its employees filed a lawsuit against payroll processing and HR giant ADP for failing to make its industry-leading products and services accessible to blind managers and line staff. Click here to read the complaint.

The suit, filed in San Francisco County Superior Court, alleges that ADP’s cloud-based payroll and HR services are not accessible to blind professionals who use assistive technology such as screenreaders, in violation of California civil rights and anti-discrimination law.

Websites and mobile applications can easily be made accessible for individuals who use screen readers—which interact with the app’s or website’s digital elements, such as images, text, buttons, links, and headings, and convert that information into audible synthesized speech or output that information on a digital braille display. Many companies and organizations, for example in the banking and informational technology fields, have successfully made their products and services compatible with screen readers and assistive technologies.

ADP has not incorporated these accessibility features into its cloud-based HR product. LightHouse, a non-profit organization based in San Francisco that promotes the independence, equality and self-reliance of people who are blind or have low vision, purchased ADP’s Workforce Now human resources and payroll products and services in October 2017. Blind employees, who make up a significant portion of LightHouse’s staff, immediately began having trouble using the Workforce Now website and mobile app to perform HR-related tasks—tasks that the ADP product was meant to streamline, like punching in and out, requesting time off, and approving time off requests.

“Today, tens of thousands of blind Americans are employed in the competitive workforce,” said Lighthouse CEO Bryan Bashin, “Human resources management companies like ADP should not be placing work flow roadblocks in their way when other companies’ software is completely accessible. The inaccessible, badly written software affects every blind employee, from directors down to line workers. It makes everyday, simple processes a nightmare, or impossible.”

“As a staff member and a manager, the inaccessibility of ADP’s website and app compounds to wreak havoc on my workdays. To accomplish my own HR-related needs, and to facilitate the needs of my direct reports who use screenreaders, I am forced to forego efficiency, autonomy, and privacy on a regular basis,” says Erin Lauridsen, LightHouse’s Director of Access Technology who joined the lawsuit as an individual plaintiff.

Senior Accessible Media and Braille Specialist Frank Welte also joined the lawsuit as an individual plaintiff. “The inaccessibility of the ADP website and mobile app has prevented me from having equal access to important employee information and benefits. This is a violation of my civil rights as a person who is blind. Furthermore, ADP’s lack of attention to disability access is symptomatic of a common lack of attention to the accessibility of software used in the workplace which hinders the productivity and career advancement of workers with disabilities.”

LightHouse is represented by national nonprofit Disability Rights Advocates. “A Fortune 500 company like ADP should be helping set the standard for providing accessible services and products to its blind and low-vision customers,” says staff attorney Shira Tevah. “This lawsuit has the potential to impact countless other organizations and people who are using ADP’s products and facing similar barriers.”

The lawsuit’s demands include injunctive relief requiring ADP to make Workforce Now accessible as well as damages to compensate LightHouse for the losses it has incurred from its staff’s inability to use the product it purchased in the manner intended.

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About Disability Rights Advocates

Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), founded in 1993, is a leading national nonprofit disability rights legal center.  Its mission is to advance equal rights and opportunity for people with all types of disabilities nationwide.  DRA represents people with the full spectrum of disabilities in complex, system-changing, class action cases.  Thanks to DRA’s precedent-setting work, people with disabilities across the country have dramatically improved access to health care, recreation, employment, transportation, education, disaster-preparedness planning, voting and housing. www.dralegal.org

About the LightHouse

LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired – San Francisco is California’s largest employer of people who are blind or have low vision. It provides education, training, advocacy, and community for blind individuals in California and around the world. Founded in 1902, the LightHouse is one of the largest and most established comprehensive blindness organizations in North America, with a wide variety of programs to suit a wide variety of needs, as well as a rich network of blindness advocates and professionals. www.lighthouse-sf.org

Contacts

Shira Tevah: 510-665-8644, stevah@dralegal.org

Lee Kumutat: 415.812.5384, lkumutat@lighthouse-sf.org