Fenty Beauty was slapped with a new lawsuit, accusing it of engaging in”intentional discrimination” by”making it impossible” for visually impaired customers to”properly and fully use its [e-commerce] website.” According to the situation that Beatriz Gutierrez filed from Fenty Beauty in state court at a Los Angeles, the industry-disrupting beauty manufacturer — which is a joint venture between music mega-star Rihanna along with French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton — will be the most current in a growing list of brands being taken to court for supposedly running afoul of all California state civil rights law.
In her complaint, Ms. Gutierrez asserts that she’s legally blind and thus, needs”screen-reading software to access and read website content with her PC.” Under California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act (“UCRA”), which specifically outlaws discrimination according to sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, disability, health condition, genetic data, marital status, or sexual orientation, places of public accommodation should make sure that disabled individuals have full and equal enjoyment to its site as people who aren’t handicapped. This includes access.
The plaintiff claims that she and all other visually impaired individuals are being denied equal access to the online information and products and services provided over the Fenty Beauty website because it’s”not entirely accessible to screen-reading technology used by blind individuals,” and thus, topics visually impaired customers of Fenty Beauty to”a second-class experience.”
“Despite readily available methods to render websites fully available to all,” Fenty Beauty has neglected to”make proper and appropriate use of other text, available in forms, descriptive hyperlinks, resizable text, and tags” to ensure that its site provides equivalent access for blind and visually-impaired customers. As such, Gutierrez asserts that the actions of Fenty Beauty reflect intentional discrimination.
Gutierrez — who has filed near-exact suits within the last six months against LVMH-owned brands Sephora and Brioni, Breitling, Net-a-Porter, Ferrari, Proenza Schouler, Isabel Marant, along with Alexander Wang, amongst others — will be seeking relief from the form of preliminary and permanent injunctions, that might bar Fenty Beauty from committing further violations of their UCRA, and a range of monetary damages.
In addition to linking lots of California state suits filed by precisely the exact same plaintiff, the Fenty Beauty case comes beneath an ever larger trend in litigation: one that is sweeping variety of federal lawsuits have been filed against brands for allegedly violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) for the very same behaviour.
Brands including H&M, the Kardashians’ Dash stores, Lacoste, Jo Malone, Coach, Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Versace, Vera Wang, Valentino, Urban Outfitters, Tory Burch, Bally, Glossier, Hugo Boss, Louis Vuitton, New Balance, Nike, and J. Crew, amongst others, are targeted with ADA-centric suits — most of which have settled out of court, presumably not without a monetary damages component and a pledge from the manufacturers to recalibrate their sites to take advantage of specific applications to allow access by both visually and hearing impaired people.
The frequency where these lawsuits have been filed should serve as a wakeup call for manufacturers, particularly because there is predicted to become an uptick in lawsuit over ADA violations, particularly at New York state, that lawyer Adam Michaels says”has proven particularly welcoming to those situations, with almost 300 ADA website lawsuits filed in New York’s national courts in the first quarter of 2018,” alone.
As Michaels stated last year,”A company can decrease the risk and achieve the greatest possible position to defend itself from an ADA net entry claim by taking the following measures: Running an ADA compliance audit of its site and digital content, and engaging a seller to help bring its site into compliance with [Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 AA] guidelines.”