News & Media

"It is the first reported decision that I know of that holds that Deaf prisoners and detainees have a First Amendment right to access a videophone to communicate with the outside world."

On February 23, the Fourth Circuit issued a wonderful decision in Thomas Heyer v. U.S. Bureau of Prisons, the Committee case about a Deaf civil detainee in the US Bureau of Prisons.

The opinion reverses the District Court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants.

"Importantly, it is the first reported decision that I know of that holds that Deaf prisoners and detainees have a First Amendment right to access a videophone to communicate with the outside world," says Deborah Golden, Project Director of the DC Prisoners' Project.

Read the opinion here...

Watch Committee Attorneys Appear on University of the District of Columbia Cable TV's "Sound Advice"

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The WLC Calls for Sanctuary Schools Resolution in the District.

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The Committee and 37 Other Disability Rights Organizations Oppose H.R. 985

H.R. 985, the “Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017,” is currently before the House Judiciary Committee. It would eviscerate class actions in many important ways. In a letter to the Committee, the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center — joined by the Washington Lawyers' Committee and 36 other disability rights organizations — explained how devastating it would be to cases that improve the lives of people with disabilities.

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Baltimore County must pay former worker $780,000 for violating disability law, jury decides - Baltimore Sun

Baltimore County must pay more than $780,000 to a former longtime county sanitarian who said she was forced into retirement when supervisors refused to accommodate her disability, a federal jury decided.

Dianne Van Rossum sued the county for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, saying she was not allowed to move to another office when she had a severe reaction to chemical odors emanating from new paint and carpeting in the Jefferson Building, a county office space in Towson. The jury returned the verdict this week in U.S. District Court. It awarded $530,053 for economic damages and $250,000 for pain and suffering.

"I hope this case just sends a message," said Van Rossum, who worked for the county's environmental department from 1980 to 2010. "The jury obviously agreed that my rights were violated."

Read the article here...

Ethiopian Woman Unlawfully Denied Housing Because Of Her National Origin Files Lawsuit Against Housing Provider

WASHINGTON, DCWhile pregnant with her second child, Melikt Mengiste, a District of Columbia resident of Ethiopian origin, was denied housing by the 1901-07 15th Street, N.W., Cooperative Association (the “Cooperative”). Despite being pre-approved for housing by the property management company and complying with all of the application requirements, including producing additional documentation outside of the usual process, the Cooperative and its president denied Ms. Mengiste an interview and ultimately, the opportunity to move into a unit of suitable size for her growing family.

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Jury Awards Baltimore County Former Employee with a Disability more than $780,000 in Lawsuit Brought by Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Kirkland & Ellis

A former Baltimore County employee who was forced into retirement when the County refused to accommodate her disability won a $780,053 jury verdict in the US District Court for the District of Maryland on January 30.

Plaintiff Dianne Van Rossum worked for Baltimore County as a Sanitarian for the Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management for 29 years and 9 months. She was forced to retire on April 22, 2010 when the County withdrew the accommodations it had previously provided to her to alleviate the disabling reactions she had to chemicals in her newly renovated office space.

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A Message from Committee Executive Director Jonathan Smith about Demonstrating in DC

Downtown DC should be an interesting place tomorrow. While attendance for the inauguration is expected to be smaller than past years, there are many people in town and significant resistance actions and protests are planned.

A significant amount of legal support has been organized to ensure that people have a right to protest and to assist persons who are arrested. A couple of things to keep in mind:

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Blind Customers and the Committee Reach Settlement with Sweetgreen, Inc. to Ensure Its Online Ordering System is Accessible

NEW YORK, NY – Sweetgreen, Inc. has reached an agreement with customers Tajuan Farmer and Mika Pyyhkala to make its online ordering portal and mobile application accessible to talking screen readers used by the blind. On March 22, 2016, Plaintiffs, represented by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York alleging that the online portal and mobile application, where customers can place and customize salad orders for pick-up at their nearest Sweetgreen location, was not fully accessible to the blind. Plaintiffs, both blind and who use screen readers, alleged that they were not able to place orders independently. Sweetgreen worked cooperatively with the Plaintiffs to reach a settlement agreement whereby Sweetgreen will remedy these accessibility barriers by March 31, 2017 to conform to, at minimum, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Level A and AA Success Criteria (“WCAG2.0AA”), and to maintain accessibility. The settlement agreement also identifies a mechanism for providing feedback concerning any accessibility issues encountered after March 31st on either the website or mobile application, and requires web accessibility training for Sweetgreen’s IT staff.

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Native American Employee of the Department of Energy Sues Agency for Race/National Origin Discrimination and Retaliation

WASHINGTON, DCJody TallBear, a well-respected Native American employee of the Department of Energy, brought suit yesterday to challenge retaliation she experienced when she sought to address a work environment hostile to Native Americans. The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia against the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and raises claims of race and national origin discrimination, a hostile work environment, and retaliation.

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