Feds Settle ADA Discrimination Case Against Debt Collection Law Firm

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The U.S. Justice Department Thursday announced that it has reached a settlement agreement with a Maryland debt collection law firm to resolve allegations that the firm violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by refusing to accept calls using Video Relay Service.

Justice said that Pasadena, Md.-based Peroutka and Peroutka P.A. discriminated against deaf individuals by refusing to accept Video Relay Service (VRS) calls, according to two complaints. The VRS calls allow a deaf, hard-of-hearing, or mute person to communicate with another party through the use of a video sign language interpreter.

According to the complaints, Peroutka employees also hung up on one complainant and informed the other complainant that Peroutka could not assist her and that she had to call back at a specific time when a manager was present.

“People with disabilities cannot be denied services simply because they use alternative ways to communicate,” said Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez.  “The ADA does not tolerate this type of discrimination and neither does the Justice Department.”

Under the settlement, Peroutka is required to pay $30,000 in compensation to the complainants, to revise its policies and procedures to ensure that the office accepts Video Relay Service calls and treats people with disabilities equally, and to train its employees on the ADA’s obligations.

The case should be a cautionary one for ARM executives. While many focus on the panoply of debt collection industry-specific regulation, ARM firms should make sure they have procedures in place that ensure compliance with laws designed for all American businesses.

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  • avatar Commercial Guy says:

    How does the collection agency get around the third-party disclosure restrictions in the FDCPA if they do this? Or has that already been tested in court?

  • avatar Wes Baldwin says:

    Seems to me the consumer is the party that is exposing their information to the Relay Service by electing to use that service. This seems like common sense so I am probably wrong!

  • avatar Toni @bbr says:

    I agree with you Wes…the debtor is actually the one that intiates this type of call. Many in the industry shy away fearful of third party disclosure, I think it would be a stretch if someone utilizing VRS or TTY would bring suit for a third party disclosure…however many agencies error on the side of caution. And look now it cost this agency $30,000.00 and the debtor probably just wanted to pay his $200.00 debt.

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