A proposed class action claims Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has discriminated against deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals by failing to provide equal access to exams, courses, resources and events.
Filed by Disability Rights Advocates on behalf of three plaintiffs, the 25-page lawsuit alleges the defendant, the largest professional human resources membership association in the world, has violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to provide sign language interpreters, closed captions, timely transcripts of courses and events, and other accommodations for hearing-impaired members and prospective members.
According to the case, SHRM’s conduct amounts to denying deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals full and equal access to its benefits and services. The case claims the defendant routinely fails to provide on its website any information about the accessibility of its programs or how to request accommodations. Moreover, requests for such are frequently met with denials, inadequate accommodations or “sometimes no response at all,” the lawsuit alleges. As a result, deaf and hearing-impaired individuals are unable to access SHRM’s services “in a manner comparable to hearing people,” the case claims.
SHRM, the lawsuit explains, offers widely recognized certification programs for human resources professionals that can be pursued in person or remotely. Both certified professionals and senior certified professionals must be recertified every three years through exams or credits provided by SHRM, according to the suit. The organization also provides educational programming and other resources and events for human resource professionals’ career development and certification exam preparation, the case says.
Per the lawsuit, SHRM members and customers who are deaf or hearing-impaired can only benefit from the organization’s programs if such resources are provided via an effective means of communication, such as a sign language interpreter, closed captions, transcripts or other forms of communication depending on the type of content. The suit claims SHRM has “routinely failed” to provide such accommodations for deaf and hearing-impaired individuals or even notify them through its website whether accommodations are available:
“Although the website contains numerous posts and pages regarding accessibility from an HR perspective, including a sample ADA reasonable accommodation request form for employees, the website has no accessibility policy of its own. Nor does the site have a page dedicated to accommodations for SHRM services or contact information for an ADA coordinator. And, until recently, SHRM provided no process through which participants could request such accommodation for any programming, and still only references accommodations in limited circumstances.”
Because of SHRM’s lack of accessibility information, deaf and hearing-impaired human resources professionals have no way of knowing whether they will be able to access the content before registering for a program or course, the suit says.
“As a result,” the complaint reads, “Plaintiffs have missed programming, faced delays in certifications, or been forced to utilize ineffective methods of communication to participate in or attend SHRM programming, among other barriers.”
The complaint notes that the three plaintiffs in the suit notified SHRM of its alleged accessibility problems in October 2020 but were not assured that the defendant would commit to providing equal access to its programs and services.
“Plaintiffs were thus faced with no choice but to pursue their legal remedies in court,” the complaint states.
The full complaint, including more details about the plaintiffs’ individual experiences, can be read below.
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