Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Justice Department Reaches Agreement with Hilton Worldwide Inc. Over ADA Violations at Hilton Hotels and Major Hotel Chains Owned by Hilton

The Justice Department and Hilton Worldwide Inc. today announced a comprehensive, precedent-setting agreement under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that will make state-of-the-art accessibility changes to approximately 900 hotels nationwide. The agreement is in the form of a proposed consent decree filed today in federal court to resolve a simultaneously filed lawsuit under the ADA.

The department’s complaint alleges that Hilton’s hotels designed and constructed after Jan. 26, 1993, fail to comply with the ADA and Department of Justice regulations. Hilton operates a system of hotels throughout the United States under the trade and service names of "Hilton," "Conrad Hotels & Resorts," "Doubletree," "Embassy Suites," "Hampton Inn," "Hilton Garden Inn," "Hilton Grand Vacations," "Homewood Suites," "the Waldorf Astoria" and "Home2Suites." Hilton Worldwide Inc. (HWI), owns, operates, or has entered into and maintains franchise license agreements for each hotel in the HWI system.

"The ADA protects the right of people with disabilities to stay in accessible hotel rooms, and to reserve those hotel rooms through the same convenient systems as everyone else," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division. "Persons with disabilities who travel for pleasure or business must be able to count on getting the accessible room they reserved, and the hotel must provide the choice of amenities that everyone comes to expect from a major national hotel chain like Hilton."

The agreement is the result of a lengthy investigation and negotiation. Hilton officials cooperated with the department throughout the process. Allegations in the department’s complaint include failure to provide the required number of accessible rooms, failure to disperse accessible rooms among the various categories of available accommodations, failure to provide individuals with disabilities the ability to reserve accessible rooms through Hilton’s central reservations system on-line or by telephone, and failure to provide individuals with disabilities with the accessible sleeping accommodations that they reserved.

Today’s settlement represents the first time the Department of Justice has required a franchisor to require all franchised or managed hotels that enter into a new franchise or management agreement, experience a change in ownership, or renew or extend a franchise agreement, to conduct a survey of its facilities and to certify that the hotel complies with the ADA. It is also the first time that an agreement under the ADA has specifically detailed how a hotel reservations system should be made accessible. The agreement also represents the first time that a hotel chain has been required to make its online reservations system accessible and to provide on its website current data about accessible features in guest rooms throughout the chain.

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