Lawsuit Filed Today Alleges The Container Store Discriminates Against the Blind
Plaintiffs Allege The Container Store Compromises the Security of Blind Customers by Forcing Them to Verbally Disclose Private Information
Boston, Massachusetts (July 20, 2015): The Container Store Group, Inc., which promotes its founders’ belief in “conscious capitalism”-the notion that a business should focus on a purpose beyond profit-is alleged in a class action lawsuit filed today in the United States District Court of Massachusetts (Case No. 1:15-cv-12984) to be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The class action suit filed on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and six blind individuals who reside in New York, California, Texas, and Massachusetts, alleges that The Container Store violates the rights of blind customers under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and numerous state laws by failing to provide a secure means for in-store enrollment in The Container Store’s loyalty program, as well as failing to provide universal access to tactile keypads for the secure and independent entry of a private PIN during a sales transaction. The Container Store, a leading specialty retailer of storage and organization products in the United States, owns and operates approximately seventy stores throughout the United States.
The Container Store has failed to provide tactile keypads for use by blind customers in all of its store locations, despite a Department of Justice (DOJ) statement filed in a Florida court more than a year ago that made clear the DOJ’s position that merchants are required under the ADA to provide blind customers a physical keypad to input their debit or credit card PINs. As a result, blind customers are forced to sacrifice the security of their debit card PIN by sharing it with store employees, or using another less desirable form of payment. When contacted by the NFB about the issue, The Container Store issued plastic overlays at its stores that were virtually useless to blind customers, instead of promptly replacing its devices with tactile keypads, such as those that have been in use in most comparable stores for years. The overlays do nothing to protect the privacy of a blind customer’s PIN entry since they have no privacy shield and cannot be used without assistance from an employee.
The Container Store is also alleged to discriminate against the blind because its in-store electronic devices on which customers can enroll in The Container Store’s loyalty program-known as POP!, Perfectly Organized Perks-cannot be independently used by blind customers. Since The Container Store’s in-store loyalty program enrollment can only be independently accomplished through visual touchscreen devices, blind customers cannot independently enroll and must disclose their confidential information to store personnel in order to obtain the benefits of enrollment.
"I just want to be treated like everybody else," said Arthur Jones, one of the lead plaintiffs from New York. "When a company like The Container Store creates a system that excludes me from participating in it the way others can, I don't feel like I am being treated like everybody else.”
Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Blind people are just as concerned about the security of our financial accounts and the privacy of our confidential information as our sighted peers, so having to verbally provide a debit or credit card PIN and personal telephone number or email address to The Container Store’s sales personnel is not acceptable. Blind people must have all of the same options for payment and access to the same benefits as sighted customers.”
Plaintiffs are represented in this matter by Jana Eisinger of the Martinez Law Group, P.C., a law firm that specializes in complex litigation and class actions, with offices in Denver and New York City; Jeremy Weltman of Kerstein, Coren & Lichtenstein LLP in Wellesley, Massachusetts; Scott LaBarre of LaBarre Law Offices, P.C., in Denver; and Tim Elder of TRE Legal Practice in Fremont, California.