SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT BETWEEN
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
WEBSTER BANK, N.A.
UNDER THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT
DJ # 202-14-166
- This Settlement Agreement is made by and entered into between the United States of America and Webster Bank, N.A. (“WEBSTER”). The Agreement resolves an investigation of WEBSTER conducted by the United States Department of Justice (“United States” or “Department”) under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12181 - 12189, and its implementing regulation, 28 C.F.R. pt. 36.
- The United States initiated its investigation of WEBSTER after receiving a complaint made by an individual who is a customer of WEBSTER and who is deaf or hard of hearing. The complainant alleged that WEBSTER violated Title III the ADA because it refused to accept a call made by a deaf customer by video relay service (“VRS”).
- “Video relay service” or “VRS” is a telephone service that enables persons with disabilities to use the telephone to communicate using video connections. VRS uses interpreters connected to callers by video hook-up and is designed to provide telephone services to persons who are deaf and use American Sign Language that are functionally equivalent to those provided to users who are hearing. VRS is funded through the Interstate Telecommunications Relay Services Fund and overseen by the FCC. See 47 CFR 64.601(a)(26). The United States has investigated the complaint under the authority granted by the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12188(b)(1)(A)(i), and 28 C.F.R. § 36.502.
- WEBSTER advised the Department that it currently accepts TDD calls, emails, live chats, and on an individual exception basis, VRS calls, but that because of concerns as to “security and customer privacy or confidentiality reasons” it has rejected the use of VRS on a general basis.
- WEBSTER further asserts that it is under no obligation, legal or otherwise, to accept VRS, and denies that its refusal to accept VRS violates Title III of the ADA.
- The United States alleges that WEBSTER violated Title III of the ADA by its refusal to accept VRS. WEBSTER denies that it has violated Title III of the ADA or any other law. Nevertheless, in an effort to amicably resolve a disputed claim, and to avoid the expense and uncertainty that accompany litigation, WEBSTER agrees to enter into this Settlement Agreement in accordance with the terms set forth below.
- The Attorney General of the United States is authorized to enforce Title III of the ADA by seeking monetary relief for aggrieved persons, civil penalties, and full compliance with Title III's provisions, such as requiring public accommodations to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures and provide auxiliary aids and services, 42 U.S.C. § 12188(b); 28 C.F.R. § 36.504. The Attorney General may commence a civil action to enforce Title III in any situation where he has reasonable cause to believe that a pattern or practice of discrimination exists or a matter of general public importance is raised. 42 U.S.C. § 12188(b)(1)(B); 28 C.F.R. § 36.503.
- WEBSTER owns and operates places of public accommodation. It has multiple branches located in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Westchester County, NY. Therefore, WEBSTER is a public accommodation as defined in section 301(7)(F) of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12181(7)(F), and its implementing regulation, 28 C.F.R. § 36.104.
- Title III of the ADA and the Title III implementing regulation prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability by public accommodations. 42 U.S.C. § 12182; 28 C.F.R. § 36.201. Specifically, Title III requires public accommodations to provide auxiliary aids and services when necessary to ensure effective communication with individuals with disabilities. 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(iii); 28 C.F.R. § 36.303. Title III also requires public accommodations to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, or procedures when such modifications are necessary to afford goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations to individuals with disabilities. 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(ii); 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(a).
- In consideration of the terms of this Agreement, the United States agrees to refrain from undertaking further investigation or filing a civil lawsuit in this matter regarding the allegations of Department of Justice complaint DJ # 202-14-155, except as provided in the Enforcement section of this Agreement.
- The term “WEBSTER” shall include WEBSTER employees.
- WEBSTER shall not discriminate against any individual on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of any of its goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations or otherwise violate any provision of Title III of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12181 - 12189, 12203, or the Title III implementing regulation, 28 C.F.R. pt. 36, including but not limited to the following:
- WEBSTER shall not impose or apply eligibility criteria that screen out or tend to screen out a customer on the basis of a hearing impairment or speech disability from fully and equally enjoying any of its goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations, 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(i) and 28 C.F.R. § 36.301(a);
- WEBSTER shall not refuse to make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and procedures when such modifications are necessary to afford such goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations to customers who are deaf or hard of hearing or have speech disabilities, unless making such accommodations would fundamentally alter the nature of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations, 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(ii) and 28 C.F.R. § 36.302;
- WEBSTER shall not fail to take such steps as may be necessary to ensure that no customers who are deaf or hard of hearing or who have speech disabilities are excused, denied services, segregated, or otherwise treated differently than others because of the absence of auxiliary aids and services unless WEBSTER can demonstrate that taking such steps would fundamentally alter the nature of the services or accommodations being offered and would result in an undue burden, 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(iii) and 28 C.F.R. §§ 36.301(c), 36.303; and
- WEBSTER shall not engage in retaliation, coercion, interference, intimidation, or any other action prohibited by the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12203 and 28 C.F.R. § 36.206.
- WEBSTER will continue to provide equal access to its telephone services for individuals who are deaf, or hard of hearing or have speech disabilities. WEBSTER shall accept communications from such individuals including relay calls, VRS, the Bank’s TDD line, the Bank’s message center at http://www.websteronline.com or by using the Bank’s online chat option, when available, from individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, or have speech disabilities. WEBSTER shall accept calls from VRS providers who communicate with deaf or hard of hearing callers through American Sign Language. Such providers communicate with deaf or hard of hearing customers who call in using video technology permitting video sign language communication. The caller contacts a communications assistant (“CA”), who is a qualified sign language interpreter. The customer and the CA communicate with each other in sign language through video technology. The CA then telephones WEBSTER through its telephone systems. After verification of personal information, the CA relays the conversation back and forth between WEBSTER and the caller, in sign language with the caller and via voice communication with the WEBSTER employee. Callers or customers who call into a branch office or banking center will be transferred, as needed, to the WEBSTER customer care center for further assistance, just as other callers are transferred for the handling of certain services.
When a WEBSTER employee receives a call made through a relay service, including VRS, the employee will use WEBSTER's standard operating procedure, using standard authentication methods, to ensure that the call is valid. These steps may include verification of personal information and is equivalent to the standard verification process used with a caller who does not communicate using a relay service. In addition, the employee shall read a disclaimer, the text of which is included in Exhibit A, attached, indicating that WEBSTER does not assume any liability for disclosure of the caller's information to the CA. After such verification has been completed and the disclaimer acknowledged, the employee shall provide to the person with a disability communicating through a relay service access to any service that would be provided to a person without a disability who is communicating with WEBSTER by telephone.
Within sixty (60) days of the effective date of this Agreement, WEBSTER shall provide training to all employees whose duties involve telephone communication with the public on the use of relay services, identified in paragraph 13. Such training shall include information regarding the use of each different type of service (VRS service, standard relay and TDD line service), the procedures to be followed, and the telephone numbers to be used to contact each type of relay service to place a relay call. The training protocol is set forth in additional detail in Exhibit A. During the term of this Agreement WEBSTER shall provide the training required by this Agreement to all new employees whose duties involve telephone communications with the public within thirty (30) business days of the commencement of employment. Within thirty (30) days of execution of this Agreement WEBSTER shall post a Notice in all branches or banking centers in a conspicuous location identifying the availability of services available to the deaf, hearing impaired, and those who have speech difficulties. A copy of the Notice is attached as Exhibit B.
WEBSTER maintains a website that is designed to provide banking services through manually input information, a visual interface and remotely transmitted requests, which can be conveniently used by customers who are deaf or hard of hearing or have speech disabilities to get banking services without need for accommodation. WEBSTER will make reasonable efforts to ensure that its website is available for customers who are deaf or hard of hearing, or have speech disabilities.
Within sixty (60) days of the effective date of this Agreement and, every year thereafter, for a period of two (2) years, WEBSTER will submit a written report to the United States confirming compliance with this Agreement, describing its actions relating to compliance with this Agreement, including, inter alia, copies of policies and training programs, photographs of notices posted, and any other documents to support compliance with this Agreement.
If at any time WEBSTER desires to modify any portion of this Agreement because of changed conditions making performance impossible or impractical or for any other reason, it will promptly notify the United States in writing, setting forth the facts and circumstances thought to justify modification and the substance of the proposed modification. All modifications to the Agreement must receive the prior written approval of the United States, which approval shall not be unreasonably withheld or delayed. Approval shall be deemed to have been granted should the United States not respond to any written request by WEBSTER within 120 days. Until there is written agreement by the United States to the proposed modification, or until the 120 days have passed without comment by the United States, the proposed modification will not take effect.
The United States may review compliance with this Agreement at any time, including, but not limited to, testing of any WEBSTER's implementation of VRS as set forth herein. If the United States believes that WEBSTER has failed to comply in a timely manner with any requirement of this Agreement without obtaining sufficient advance written agreement with the United States for a modification of the relevant terms, or without the passage of 120 days without comment by the United States from the date of any written request for modification, the United States will so notify WEBSTER in writing, and it will attempt to resolve the issue or issues in good faith. If the United States is unable to reach a satisfactory resolution of the issue or issues raised within thirty (30) days of the date it provides notice to WEBSTER, it may institute a civil action in federal court to enforce the terms of this Agreement or title III and may, in such action, seek any relief available under law.
Failure by the United States to enforce this Agreement with regard to any deadline or any other provision will not be construed as a waiver of the United States' right to enforce other deadlines and provisions of this Agreement.
A copy of this Agreement, including Exhibit A, will be made available to any person by WEBSTER or the United States on written request. Any request to WEBSTER shall be addressed to Webster Bank Legal Department, 145 Bank Street, MO325, Waterbury, CT. 06702, Attention General Counsel.
This Agreement, including Exhibits A and B, shall be binding on WEBSTER and its agents, and employees. In the event WEBSTER seeks to transfer or assign all or part of its interest in any WEBSTER location or service covered by this Agreement, and the successor or assignee intends on carrying on the same or similar use of the facility, as a condition of sale, WEBSTER shall obtain the written agreement of the successor or assignee to any obligation remaining under this Agreement for the remaining term of this Agreement.
This Agreement, including Exhibits A and B, constitutes the entire agreement between the United States and WEBSTER on the matters raised herein, and no other statement, promise, or agreement, either written or oral, made by either party or their respective agents, that is not contained in this written Agreement, will be enforceable. This Agreement does not affect WEBSTER's continuing responsibility to comply with all aspects of the ADA and other federal laws.
This Agreement will remain in effect for two (2) years.
The person signing this Agreement for WEBSTER represents that he or she is authorized to bind WEBSTER to this Agreement.
- The Effective Date of this Agreement is the date of the last signature below.
FOR WEBSTER BANK, N.A.
Commissioner, State Aging Department on Aging
FOR THE UNITED STATES
Assistant United States Attorney