Minnesota’s Human Rights Act (Minnesota Statutes 363A) duplicates and often expands rights protected under federal laws. One provision that has garnered attention recently is 363A.11 – public accommodations. This provision parallels federal protections found in the Americans with Disabilities Act, specifically addressing architectural barriers that prevent persons with disabilities equal access to public accommodations.
Under the ADA, a person excluded from a business due to an architectural barrier can bring a lawsuit seeking an injunction – an order that the business remove the barrier. While the plaintiff could recover attorneys’ fees, damages are not available under the federal ADA. Under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, though, a plaintiff may recover damages.
Although these laws have been in place for more than a quarter century, they’ve come under scrutiny recently because a group used the state law as means to leverage monetary settlements from businesses without actually requiring the businesses they sued (or threatened to sue) to remove the architectural barriers. This had the unique effect of uniting business groups and disability advocates. Read More