Library boards are ultimately responsible for assuring that federal and state laws are reflected in library policies and procedures and that the constitutional rights of individuals are protected. This chapter, although by no means comprehensive, provides a brief overview of some state and federal laws that relate to public libraries. Assistance may be available from state and federal agencies through their print publications and web sites, as well as in-person workshops and webinars. The Washington State Library is a depository for both Washington State and Federal publications. Visit our Washington State Government Publications and Federal Government Resources web sites for further information or search our catalog for items in these collections. Specific questions should be addressed to your library's legal counsel.
Washington State Laws and Constitution
Some state laws and articles of the State Constitution that should be highlighted are:
- Discrimination - Human Rights Commission (RCW 49.60) - includes a wide range of discrimination concerns including trained dog guides and service animals (RCW 49.60.215). WAC 162-26 provides additional information related to disability discrimination including reasonable accommodation (WAC 162-26-080) and dog guides and service animals;
- Credit Not To Be Loaned - Article VIII, Section 7 of the Washington State Constitution;
- Fair Campaign Practices Act (RCW 42.17A) - Short title for Campaign disclosure and contribution;
- Open Public Meetings Act (RCW 42.30) - see Board Meetings;
- Public Records Act (RCW 42.56) - see chapter on Public Records;
- Religious Freedom - Article I, Section 11 of the Washington State Constitution;
- Smoking in Public Places (RCW 70.160) - formerly known as the Washington Clean Indoor Air Act;
- Minimum Wage (RCW 49.46) - For information about minimum wage, including the current minimum wage, a History of Washington State's Minimum Wage by year, and FAQs, go to Labor and Industrustries Minimum Wage. The Washington Administrative Code (WAC 296-128) provides a number of specifics regarding the minimum wage in Washington;
- Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act (WISHA) (RCW 49.17) - The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries provides a helpful web page, About OSHA (the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration), WISHA, and the Division of Occupational Safety and Health.
A number of RCWs and WACs are of particular relevance to libraries and may be viewed by going to the interactive index.
Washington State Legislature
The Washington State Legislature provides a wealth of resources including:
- Information about legislative districts;
- Current information about legislative sessions;
- Legislative agendas, schedules, and calendars;
- Legislative Committees;
- Legislative Information Center;
- Bill information;
- Laws and Agency Rules;
- Washington State Constitution;
- RCWs and WACs.
Revised Code of Washington (RCW)
As described on the Washington State Legislature web site:
“The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) is the compilation of all permanent laws now in force. It is a collection of Session Laws (enacted by the Legislature, and signed by the Governor, or enacted via the initiative process), arranged by topic, with amendments added and repealed laws removed. It does not include temporary laws such as appropriations acts. The official version of the RCW is published by the Statute Law Committee and the Code Reviser.
The online version of the RCW is updated twice a year, once in the early fall following the legislative session, and again at the end of the year if a ballot measure that changes the law passed at the general election. Copies of the RCW as they existed each year since 2002 are available in the RCW Archive.”
Washington Administrative Code (WAC)
The web site of the Washington State Legislature provides the following description of the WAC:
“Regulations of executive branch agencies are issued by authority of statutes. Like legislation and the Constitution, regulations are a source of primary law in Washington State. The WAC codifies the regulations and arranges them by subject or agency. The online version of the WAC is updated twice a month. Copies of the WAC as they existed each year since 2004 are available in the WAC archive.”
Laws relating to library service
The Washington Library Association (WLA) provides a wealth of information related to laws affecting libraries. As stated on their Library Related Legislation web page:
"ldquo;The Association actively pursues a legislative agenda that presents the interests of its members through a legislative planning committee and a contract government relationship representative who works with the Washington State Legislature.”
Among the many resources available at this site are:
- Washington State Bills of Interest;
- Fact Sheets and Issue Briefs;
- Legislative Session Reports (both past and present);
- Washington State Legislature Links;
- Federal Library Legislation Links;
- Library Advocacy Resources.
The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries Workplace Rights web site includes information on numerous issues including:
- Minimum Wage;
- Breaks and Schedules;
- Safety Complaints;
- Teen Workers;
- Leave Time;
- Discrimination in the Workplace.
The United States Government Printing Office (GPO) is the portal for legal information at a federal level. The Federal Digital System (FDsys) provides links to:
- The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR);
- Congressional Bills;
- Congressional Documents;
- Congressional Hearings;
- The Congressional Record;
- Congressional Reports;
- The United States Constitution;
- The Federal Register;
- Economic Indicators;
- United States Code;
- United States Courts Opinions.
Federal laws that are of particular relevance to libraries include:
- Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) (including changes made by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-325)
The U.S. Department of Justice ADA Home Page provides numerous links related to the ADA, including the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design and the ADA Best Practices Tool Kit for State and Local Governments “… to assist state and local officials to improve compliance with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in their programs, services, activities, and facilities.”
- What process can be used to define reasonable accomodation under ADA?
- According to MRSC:
Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that state and local governments give individuals with disabilities and their immediate relations an equal opportunity to benefit from all of their programs, services, and activities. Note, however, that public entities are not required to take actions that would result in undue financial and administrative burdens. They are required to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures where necessary to avoid discrimination, unless they can demonstrate that doing so would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program, or activity being provided. (See Title II Highlights and the Title II Technical Assistance Manual).
The State of Washington also has a law prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities called the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) at chapter 49.60 RCW. In Hartleben v. University of Washington, 194 Wn. App. 877 (2016), the court held that allowing a disabled student to attend school free of tuition would fundamentally alter the university's business model, therefore the student did not qualify for accommodation under the WLAD.
“When an accommodation would fundamentally alter a service, it is not reasonable. Here, the University provides classes in exchange for payment of tuition. Providing classes without collecting tuition fundamentally alters its business model.”
Id. at 890. Under each of these laws, I think it would be a reasonable position for the library to say that a child running around the library interfering with other patrons who are attempting to utilize the library's services would fundamentally alter the service being offered by the library. Libraries provide a free, quiet place to get work done without interference, and allowing a child to run around unmonitored fundamentally alters that service.
You did mention that there may be a conference room with Wi-Fi available. If the library is able, it could work with the patron to designate a time for him to come in and utilize a laptop computer for a certain amount of time in the conference room. Also, you could advise the library that if this patron visits again and cites the ADA as requiring accommodation, the library could ask the person to make a reasonable accommodation request in writing, and then the library could develop an appropriate response at that time.
While MRSC can provide general guidance on this subject, the ADA is not an area of expertise. The U.S. Department of Justice maintains an Info Line (800-514-0301) for ADA Compliance. It may be worth calling to discuss this issue with them. The Washington State Human Rights Commission is responsible for enforcing the WLAD.
- Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA)
The Federal Communications Commission has created a page dedicated to CIPA, including links to related guides and additional information. The American Library Association provides links to helpful resources related to CIPA, including FAQs and CIPA legal briefs.
- The U.S. Copyright Office's web site, Copyright Law of the United States and Related Laws Contained in Title 17 of the United States Code provides the latest version of U.S. Copyright Law. Stanford University's web page, Copyright & Fair Use, offers late-breaking news, as well as links to primary materials related to copyright. ALA offers a number of resources for libraries, including information about Digital Rights Management, on their Copyright page.
- Equal Opportunity Employment and Affirmative Action (EOEE)
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission web page, Laws Enforced by EEOC provides a list and descriptions of the following:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)
This law makes it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. The law also makes it illegal to retaliate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. The law also requires that employers reasonably accommodate applicants' and employees' sincerely held religious practices, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer's business.
Note: The U.S. Department of Labor Civil Rights Center provides links to statutes and regulations related to the Civil Rights Act.
- The Pregnancy Discrimination Act
This law amended Title VII to make it illegal to discriminate against a woman because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. The law also makes it illegal to retaliate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.
- The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA)
This law makes it illegal to pay different wages to men and women if they perform equal work in the same workplace. The law also makes it illegal to retaliate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)
The ADEA prohibits employment discrimination against persons 40 years of age or older. The law also makes it illegal to retaliate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.
- Titles I and V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)
This law makes it illegal to discriminate against a qualified person with a disability in the private sector and in state and local governments. The law also makes it illegal to retaliate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. The law also requires that employers reasonably accommodate the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability who is an applicant or employee, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer's business.
- Sections 102 and 103 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991
Among other things, this law amends Title VII and the ADA to permit jury trials and compensatory and punitive damage awards in intentional discrimination cases.
- Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) - The United States Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division states, “The FLSA establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment standards affecting employees in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments. The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) web site includes a number of tools and links to laws and regulations.
- The USA PATRIOT Act - The U.S. Department of Justice provides background information on the Act. The American Library Association has created a web site on Intellectual Freedom which includes information on the USA PATRIOT Act.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission provides a number of helpful resources including:
- Laws and regulations;
- Prohibited practices against job applicants and employees;
- Types of discrimination prohibited;
- No-Cost Outreach and Education Programs for employees, employers, community organizations, and other members of the general public.
City and County Codes and Ordinances
In addition to ensuring that state and federal laws are reflected in library policies and procedures, library boards must also be aware of any city and/or county codes or ordinances relevant to their operations. The Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington (MRSC) includes a number of links on their Legal Resources web page, including:
- City and county codes;
- Court decisions;
- Legal topics;
- Legislative resources;
The MRSC page devoted to Purchasing and Bidding for Washington State Local Governments is worth a look.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)
- Is the library under an obligation to follow a No Trespass Order between the library's landlord and a third party?
- From Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington:
"Based on our understanding of the facts, the library is not a party to the No Trespass Order, so they should have no duty to ensure that the order is enforced. Indeed, it is probably best for the library not to be involved in the dispute between the landlord and [third party]. Unless or until (1) the [third party] cause issues with the library directly, or (2) the landlord formally involves the library, the library should continue to conduct its business as usual."
Further information may be found in the full MRSC opinion.
- May a library board send requests to the community to support library-related election measures?
- As per the Public Disclosure Commission:
A library board may submit such requests as long as no library resources were used; i.e. no library computers to send the message, and no official letterhead. Advocacy should be done from personal computers on personal time.