ADA cover slide - CUJ 081318.jpg
Business Team Investment Entrepreneur Trading Concept

CU in court? Credit union strategies vary

The threat of litigation alleging credit union websites are in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act remains a hot topic within the industry. During the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions’ annual conference this summer in Seattle, Credit Union Journal asked several attendees if their CUs had been targeted and what they were doing about the issue. Responses varied from a lament about “using the legal system for extortion” to complete website overhauls, along with a plea to the federal government to act and praising the good fortune of staying under the radar. Read on for more.
Dan McGowan, Pioneer West Virginia FCU - 2018 NAFCU conference - CUJ 081318.JPG

Dan McGowan, president and CEO, $200 million Pioneer West VA FCU, Charleston, W.Va.

We received a threatening letter a while back. We went to our general counsel, who was familiar with the threat due to representation of a bank. My first inclination was to fight it because the plaintiff was a resident of Virginia, but the attorney said it was possible someone from Virginia could be eligible for membership. We paid a few thousand dollars, which was less than we would have paid to fight it. What is happening with this issue is a racket. It is people using the legal system for extortion. Since we paid the demand letter we have contracted with a firm to update our website.
Sharlene East, Kirtland FCU - 2018 NAFCU conference - CUJ 081318.JPG

Sharlene East, executive vice president, $800 million Kirtland FCU, Albuquerque, N.M.

We just did a full update of our website using a third-party vendor. It is now ADA compliant. It took about nine months to complete the update. We had to go through every single landing page. The whole process cost $70,000. Our site was outdated anyway, so since we were updating we addressed ADA and we put in directions to CO-OP ATMs.
Maggie Sayer, Keys FCU - 2018 NAFCU conference - CUJ 081318.JPG

Maggie Sayer, CEO, $150 million Keys FCU, Key West, Fla.

We have partnered with Omni Commander, an ADA compliance vendor for websites. We have a one-page site while the rest of the site becomes fully compliant. Once that is done, all new content will be proactively reviewed and the whole website will be checked at least once per month.
Rebecca Reynolds Lytle, Santa Clara County FCU - 2018 NAFCU conference - CUJ 081318.JPG

Rebecca Reynolds Lytle, president and CEO, $754 million Santa Clara County FCU, San Jose, Calif.

We are making sure our website is as compliant as possible. We outsource a lot of our website stuff, so we make sure our vendors are compliant. The ability for disabled people to access our website is extraordinarily important, so it is a focus for us to make sure it is available regardless of someone suing. But because of the lawsuits, we are making extra sure.
Jeanne Kucey, Jetstream FCU - 2018 NAFCU conference - CUJ 081318.JPG

Jeanne Kucey, president and CEO, $200 million JetStream FCU, Miami Lakes, Fla.

Our website is completely compliant. It has been an expensive effort that was a drain on our limited resources. We went to an outside vendor to go through our site page by page. We had to remove a lot of useful information that we are still working on making compliant, such as our press releases. NAFCU has done of great job of coming to the defense of credit unions that have been the target of lawsuits.
Jeff Jorgensen, Sioux Empire FCU - 2018 NAFCU conference - CUJ 081318.JPG

Jeff Jorgensen, president, $100 million Sioux Empire FCU, Sioux Falls, S.D.

We have been lucky or below the radar. We have not received any demand letters yet. Our provider is proactively making changes so we can avoid any trouble. The vendor is making changes in anticipation based on the litigation that has taken place so far.
Bill Birnie, Pacific Marine CU - 2018 NAFCU conference - CUJ 081318.JPG

Bill Birnie, president and CEO, $820 million Pacific Marine CU, Oceanside, Calif.

We are changing our website. Unfortunately, it takes about a year to get that done. Our current provider is unwilling to do all the things that need to be done, so we are changing providers. The nice thing is, we are rebranding, so we will launch our new website when we launch our new name.
John Buckley Jr, Gerber FCU - 2018 NAFCU conference - CUJ 081318.JPG

John Buckley Jr., president and CEO, $150 million Gerber FCU, Fremont, Mich.

We had an outside company scan our website, but in the absence of any guidance from the federal government, we have not made any specific changes. We could make changes, but a law firm could still say, “That’s not enough” and sue us. With no clear guidance from the Department of Justice, it is difficult to know what to do. The federal government needs to give all of us a standard to follow.