Judge: Hollister has 3 years to bring entrances into compliance

Judge Wiley Daniel ordered Hollister to bring its raised porch entrances into compliance with the ADA by January 1, 2017.

CREEC lawyers along with co-counsel from the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, Lewis Feinberg, and Campins Benham-Baker, had challenged Hollister’s inaccessible entrances on behalf of a nationwide class of customers who use wheelchairs.   We got invaluable support from the Department of Justice, in the form of a Statement of Interest by their trial attorney Nabina Sinha.

Porch-like structure in front of a mall store.  The porch is surrounded by a railing, and only accessible by two steps in the middle of the front of the porch.  At the back of the porch is a photo -- spanning the height and width of the rear wall -- of a male model with no shirt on.  The roof of the porch like structure is sloped and tiled to look like a beach shack.

{Image description:   Porch-like structure in front of a mall store.   The porch is surrounded by a railing, and only accessible by two steps in the middle of the front of the porch.   At the back of the porch is a photo — spanning the height and width of the rear wall — of a male model with no shirt on.   The roof of the porch like structure is sloped and tiled to look like a beach shack.}

In March, Judge Daniel held that the raised entrances violate title III of the ADA, which prohibits disability discrimination in stores and other businesses.   He scheduled a hearing for today to address the question of injunctive relief, that is, what he would order Hollister to do to remedy the violations.

Plaintiffs had proposed that Hollister have three options to comply.   They could flatten the entrance, as is already the case at approximately half the stores.

Porch-like structure in front of a mall store.  The porch is surrounded by a railing, and is accessible through a flat path in the middle of the front of the porch.  Visible at the back of the porch is a surf board.  The roof of the porch like structure is sloped and tiled to look like a beach shack.

{Image description:   Porch-like structure in front of a mall store.   The porch is surrounded by a railing, and is accessible through a flat path in the middle of the front of the porch.   Visible at the back of the porch is a surf board.   The roof of the porch like structure is sloped and tiled to look like a beach shack.}

Because Hollister had argued — in defense of the raised porches — that they were merely visual displays and not intended to be part of the Hollister experience, Plaintiffs also proposed, in the alternative, that Hollister be permitted to rope off the porches, so that they would be a purely visual experience for all customers and not just those who use wheelchairs.   Plaintiffs also proposed that Hollister have the option to ramp the entrance.

At the hearing, Judge Daniel ruled that the injunction will order that all 231 raised porches be made accessible, and that Hollister would have all three options proposed by Plaintiffs.   He also rejected Hollister’s attempt to argue over the cost and impact of the remedy, as the stores were all built after the effective date of the ADA.

The Colorado Independent has already covered the story:

“Dudes” and “Bettys” in wheelchairs have won a legal battle against Abercrombie & Fitch Co. to gain smoother access into its chain of surf-shack style Hollister stores. . . .

“It’s all about hot lifeguards and beautiful beaches”¦ Young and fun, with a sense of humor, Hollister never takes itself too seriously,” reads the company’s 2013 report to shareholders.   Plaintiffs argued the company didn’t take the 23-year-old Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) seriously either.

Hollister has stated that it will appeal — stay tuned!

Update:   The case was reported in the Denver Business Journal.

Update 2:   Reported in the Washington Post using a short AP article.