Quietly last November,
the U.S. Department of Justice finalized a settlement with the 643-room Phoenician in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide (the Phoenician, left, is a member of the Starwood Luxury Collection) over Americans with Disabilities Act compliance at the hotel, ending a five-year investigation into Title III, or public accommodations, violations.
The property is not alone in being scrutinized by the DOJ. Hilton, Crowne Plaza, Marriott and others have been investigated in recent years, often following a single complaint from a guest.
The incident should put other properties on notice that the DOJ means business. In a Hotel Law blog post about the case, ADA attorney Martin H. Orlick wrote that hotels remain a focus for the DOJ on such issues.
"The finite aspect of the order shows how difficult it is for any hotel to be 100 percent compliant," says Jonathan T. Howe, founding partner of Howe & Hutton and M&C's The Law & the Planner columnist. "I'd suggest that any public accommodation needs to be on the alert."
The Phoenician and Starwood have until Dec. 31 of this year to make modifications to two guest rooms and the restaurant. "We are pleased with the agreement we reached with the DOJ regarding changes at the Phoenician Hotel that will enhance the hotel's accessibility for our valued guests," noted a Starwood spokesperson.