Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

11th Cir. Deals With Unusual ADA Retaliation Claim - Individual Liability Under Public Accommodation Section

Political disputes often lead to interesting law issues. That appears to be what happened in Shotz v. City of Plantation, Florida (11th Cir. 9/8/03) [pdf]. Shotz, an ADA expert, surveyed a Community Center at the request of one of the council members and wrote a letter to the council member reporting numerous ways it was not in compliance with the ADA. The council member provided a copy to the Mayor and ultimately others received it as well. Unhappy with the report, an assistant city mayor authorized an investigation into Shotz' background which included hiring a private investigator and authorizing the city attorney to conduct a data base search. Ultimately, information about Shotz' "criminal, credit, and driving records, medical history, involvement in professional disciplinary and other civil proceedings, property ownership, social relationships, including an ongoing conflict with a neighbor, as well as a criminal report involving his wife," were made public.

Shotz sued several individuals under the anti-retaliation provisions of the ADA. Although noting there were numerous cases holding that individuals are not liable for violations under the ADA employment provisions, the Court found that the retaliation provision under the public accommodations section was not so limited. It also raised the question, although not deciding it, whether individuals might be liable under the retaliation provisions even for employment related matters.

Besides making one cautious about doing favors for a council member, the case is also a good lesson for the dangers of investigating someone's background. The regulatory framework is broad enough that some legal problem is almost certain to be created.

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