Businesses all over California might breathe a little easier, especially small businesses, since Governor Brown signed SB 1186 on Sept. 19., but they still need to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. SB 1186, a bill introduced by state senators Darrell Steinberg and Bob Dutton, is designed to reduce predatory lawsuits and increase the likelihood of business compliance with ADA.
Tim Roffe, of EDC Against Lawsuit Abuse, worked with Californians Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA) and other groups to keep pressure on state legislators to reform California ADA laws. California, with only 12 percent of the nation’s disabled population, has 40 percent of the nation’s ADA lawsuits.
“This is an example of how, together, we can make a difference,” said Roffe. “There were about 200 people from El Dorado County who stayed involved through the process, writing letters to legislators, showing up at rallies. CALA worked very hard and a lot of different groups came together to make this happen.”
A March meeting of the Community Economic Development Association of Pollock Pines (CEDAPP), after a spate of threatened lawsuits and demands for money hit Pollock Pines and Camino businesses, started the ball rolling in El Dorado County. Roffe, in attendance at that meeting, agreed to coordinate an effort to combat the lawsuits through legislative action. Other groups from within the county became involved.
“Our Board of Supervisors, especially Norma Santiago and Ray Nutting got behind this and supported our efforts,” said Roffe. “Social media, too, was a great tool to get the word out.”
Businesses with fewer than 25 employees who have not received an inspection by a certified access specialist (CASp), are now allowed 30 days to fix the violation before being liable for court damages. There are also ways to deal with violations in the case of a large retro-fit project, according to Roffe, without the trial attorney profiting.
“Most of our local businesses have less than 25 employees, so this is a good step that almost targets small towns,” said Roffe. “But we have historic buildings that are difficult to retrofit, so we still need to find a balance there.”
The bill reduces statutory damages for violations from $4,000 to $1,000 in certain circumstances and prevents “stacking” of multiple claims to increase monetary damages.
Not everyone is happy with the bill. “The crux of the opposition is that business owners shouldn’t be given extra time and a reduction in damages to provide access that has been required for 22 years,” said Roffe.
SB 1186 also provides an avenue for cities and counties to expand the CASp program in their communities to help bring businesses into compliance and requires property owners to state on lease and rental agreements whether or not the property has been inspected by a certified access specialist.
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or email@example.com. Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.