On May 25, 2023, Lieutenant Governor Dianne Primavera, acting on behalf of Governor Jared Polis, signed HB23-1032 into law. The Remedies for Persons with Disabilities Act (the “Act”) prohibits businesses from discriminating on the basis of disability in places of public accommodation. Places of public accommodation include businesses that offer sales or services to the public, excluding places principally used for religious purposes such as synagogues, mosques, or churches. The most common types of disability-related public accommodation lawsuits can occur, for example, a) when someone with a physical impairment encounters difficulty accessing a building or certain areas within a building, b) when a business cannot communicate effectively with someone with a vision, hearing, or speech disability, or c) when website content is difficult to access for someone with a visual, hearing, or physical impairment.
The Act permits individuals who allege discrimination in a place of public accommodation to file a complaint directly with a court. Unlike individuals who allege disability discrimination in other contexts, such as housing, employment, and discriminatory advertising, individuals alleging disability discrimination in public accommodations may bypass the requirement to exhaust administrative remedies through the Colorado Civil Rights Division (“CCRD”).
The Act also enhances the types of enforcement mechanisms available to courts when there has been a finding of discrimination in places of public accommodation. Individuals who have been discriminated against are entitled to a court order requiring compliance with public accommodations law and either 1) recovery of monetary damages from the business or 2) a statutory fine of $3,500 for each individual claimant levied against the business. Prior to the Act, courts in Colorado could choose just one of either a court order, monetary damages, or a statutory fine.
There are several key takeaways from the Remedies for Persons with Disabilities Act:
- Because “public accommodation” covers all businesses that offer goods and services to the public, a broad swath of businesses in Colorado are required to comply with public accommodation for persons with disabilities.
- Businesses should be aware that the Act requires courts to mandate compliance with public accommodation for persons with disabilities if a court finds that there has been discrimination.
- Likewise, businesses should be aware that the Act requires courts to mandate either monetary damages or fines if the court finds that there has been discrimination.
According to the CCRD, individuals alleging discrimination have 60 days from the alleged discrimination to file a complaint with the court. The Remedies for Persons with Disabilities Act is codified as Colorado Revised Statutes § 24-34-306 and § 24-34-802. The Act went into effect when it was signed on May 25, 2023.